Virtual World Scams
Virtual World Scams
Hacker X (Computer Security Expert) gives expert video advice on: What are the most common scams on the Internet?; Did I really win anything when I get an email saying "you won!"? and more...
What are the most common scams on the Internet?
The most common scams that we see online parallel a lot of those that we see in real life. This is a specific area of scamming. We see scams that are phishing, where you get an email basically asking you to provide extensive personal information that you normally wouldn't provide. We see things for lotteries that say you've won something. And my personal favorite is what's referred to as [xx] and that's been around for a very long time. The Nigerian letter scam is basically where you are contacted by somebody that originated in Nigeria, and it's extended around the world now. But basically you're contacted by someone posing as a dethroned minister, the son of a murdered political leader. And basically, it all has to do with having to move a great sum of money out of the country, so that they can pay this minister, and you are the lucky person that's going to benefit 40% of this great fortune for use of your bank account. And as soon as you engage with these people, there are all kinds of fees that have to be paid, and bribes that have to be paid. And your paying money, and they're directing seemingly small amounts pale in comparison compared to the tens of millions of dollars you're going to receive. But once you stop sending money so they can pay this minister for this license and this tax or this bribe, you'll never hear from them again.
Will I really get paid if I forward that email about Microsoft?
With virtual world scams, you may have been one of the many people who have received an email from a friend, very excited by the fact that Microsoft and AOL have teamed up and if you forward this email to 1 of your friends, for the benefit of Microsoft being able to monitor how many people get this email and use it, you're going to get a really big check. No. That's not going to happen, it's not a possibility. What actually this email states can't even be achieved technically, and there's absolutely no benefit to AOL or to Microsoft for this information that they would apparently get. So, this Microsoft email is a harmless scam, but a scam nonetheless. It can't be achieved technically because the systems everything goes through are not sophisticated enough to accurately tag every person it's been to. Additionally, on a computer network, you're not identified by you a person, you're a number. Therefore this virtual world email scam just can't really be done.
Are those "work-at-home" emails legitimate?
There are many solicitations online that are the same as solicitations in the real world, such as "Work at home and earn $15,000 a month." Well, I guess it's possible. These are just merely extensions of traditional pyramid schemes, scams and operations that are trying to get you typically to buy something or invest in something. So like anything else, you have to use your best judgment. If it seems a little bit too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. If you can make that kind of money sitting at home, I think there'd be more people doing it. Many of these scams that we find on the Internet are not new. In fact, many of them have been around for a very long time. Some of them were old Western Union scams; some of them were old actual letter writing scams. The Internet has simply made it a more immediate process to reach potential victims.
Can I really repair my credit by responding to online offers?
With regards to virtual world scams, if you're solicited by companies that can repair your credit by responding to offers online, this is exactly the same as companies that might solicit you in the regular non-virtual world to repair your credit. I think you have to evaluate them on a case by case basis. Some organizations do provide legitimate credit services that can help you repair bad credit. Others do not, they are virtual world scams. The internet however makes it a little bit easier to pose as a business than does the brick and mortar world, referring to the world of actual stores and store fronts. There's a little bit more that's involved in setting up a place of business in the real world than there is sending out a mass mailing of emails proposing to be a business. So, in my experience it's much easier to be scammed online because the cost of entry for the person who is trying to scam you is much less.
Did I really win anything when I get an email saying "you won!"?
Another scam that we see a lot online is involving you winning something, whether it's money, a vacation home, an iPod, or something. If you read those words very, very carefully, typically you either have won a chance to win this, or you may have won this predicated on your purchasing something or participating in another activity. Much like scams and opportunities which occur offline in the real world, you have to evaluate these on a case-by-case basis. These are not new scams and opportunities, just a new means of getting the message across to more people.
Is it safe to use an escrow service for an online auction purchase?
Escrow services have appeared in the last few years as online auctions and online sales have become more popular. The jury is relatively still out with these escrow services. There are some escrow services that appear to be legitimate, and really do provide the service that they say, which is they will hold the money until the merchandise is accepted, and they will hold the merchandise until the money is in place, so both parties get what they paid for. What happens is a lot of these companies are actually not legitimate escrow services, certainly not escrow as we understand it in this country, and for a small fee they will set up this escrow front, where you're going to either send your money or this item, and it's the other person that's going to benefit from these proceeds. Again, on a case by case basis, they have to be evaluated, but the jury really is still out. And a lot of negative publicity has come down on a lot of these escrow services that are not what they appear to be.