How to Avoid Online Scams

The Internet is the most powerful communication tool we have. It makes sharing information quick and easy, allowing us to achieve collective feats that once seemed impossible. But it also comes with some disadvantages.

When scammers get access to the Internet, they try to do what they know best—steal your money. The methods they use are called online scams, and these are becoming terrifyingly common. But, just like there are people trying to trick you, there are also experts who come up with security measures to help you avoid losing your hard-earned money.

This article aims to help you understand how some common scams work and the ways to protect yourself against them.

Common online scams

Online fraud comes in many forms. Some of these can be avoided by being aware of how they work, but others may require you to take intricate security measures. Below is a list of the most popular digital scams in India.

1.  Credit card copy

A large number of Indians use credit cards for transactions every day. Although these cards offer many benefits, they need to be used carefully. The credit card copy scam is a trick the frauds use to copy your card's information when you swipe it in their machine. Once they have the card copied, they can use it to rob you off of your money. So, next time you are swiping the credit card in a machine, notice if strange-looking wires are coming out of it. Moreover, avoid using it to pay anyone you do not know or can trust completely.

2. Phone scams

This type of scam depends on a credit card user's lack of knowledge. In this scenario, the scammers may call you and introduce themselves as a manager or other high-ranking officer of a financial company. They may rope you in by saying things like, "You have won money or a sponsored vacation for being a valued customer," or "We have added free services to your credit card." Then they may ask you to provide your card number, date of birth, card expiry date, card verification value (CVV), and one-time password (OTP) to help you get the rewards. If you give them these details, you will fall prey to a phone scam and your money will practically become theirs.

3.  Phishing or e-mail scams

Phishing is one of the most common Internet scams where frauds try to steal your personal information by sending you an e-mail. which appears to be genuine and official. The scammers ask you to click on a link attached to the e-mail, which takes you to their fake website. They trick you into believing that you can gain financial benefits by providing your banking details on the website. If you do so, they can get money directly from your bank account. You may also unknowingly download malware by clicking on the link, which they can use to steal your information.

4.  SIM swap scam

Scammers use many different technologies to hack your accounts. One of the things some fraudsters do these days is taking a new SIM card for their target’s phone number. If they can manage to get a SIM with your number, all your bank OTPs will be delivered to them, and they can start making transactions from your account. So, if you notice that your mobile phone has no network connectivity, it might be the result of a SIM swap scam. You must contact your network provider immediately when something like that happens.

5.  Paytm UPI scam by 'OLX'

This is a type of online shopping fraud where scammers pose as sellers on OLX. They take advance payment from you without delivering the product. Once they get your money, they stop picking up calls. Sometimes these fake sellers pose as army men to gain your trust. Sometimes they send you a payment request through Paytm Unified Payment Interface (UPI). If you accept it due to a lack of understanding of how the app works, you end up sending them money even when you do not want to. So, it is important that you learn about OLX or similar shopping apps before using them.

Steps to keep in mind to avoid online scams

The idea of a website scam is scary. But you can avoid them by developing safe internet habits. You must be careful about using open Wi-Fi networks. These connections have weak security capacities. So, do not type any personal or banking information on your phone or computer when using free Wi-Fi. Also, avoid downloading pirated games, movies, or software as they often include malware.

Dos and don'ts to avoid online scams

1.  Dos

  • Format your laptop and phone before selling them.
  • Avoid using open Wi-Fi networks.
  • Check the machine for questionable wirings before swiping your credit card.
  • Change your online passwords frequently.
  • Keep an eye on your transaction statements for unauthorized transactions.
  • Ask for an official contact number if a phone call from your bank seems like a scam.

2.  Don’ts

  • Never write your PINs and passwords where someone can easily access them.
  • Try to remember sensitive information without noting it down physically.
  • Do not use your card in random ATMs, especially if you are visiting a foreign country. You may end up losing the card.

What to do if you have been scammed

If you suspect that you are being a victim of scams, taking quick actions can save you in many cases. Contact your bank immediately and file a report in the police station. If you lose money due to an error by the bank or failure of third-party apps like Paytm or OLX, notify them within three working days. The bank will bear the loss and repay you the money. But if you are a victim of phishing or a phone scam, the banks consider it your negligence. They will still try to help you, but you might not get your money back.

Even though Internet fraud has become a common thing today, making online transactions is necessary. In fact, due to digitalization, most people have become dependent on the Internet for shopping and bill payments. So, it is essential to learn how to protect yourself against scammers. You must try to adapt to technological changes quickly and become more vigilant about using digital platforms. The scammers are not going anywhere, but you can defeat them by being more disciplined about online transactions.

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