Practical Tips to Avoiding Online Business Scams
Ever heard that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is? For as long as I can remember, people have been jumping at get rich schemes and throwing money at opportunities that seem – well, too good to be true.
When faced with any “opportunity” touting unbelievably easy; for a limited time only; risk-free investment; restricted to the first 200 participants; operators are standing by; your chance to get in on the ground floor; innovative marketing concept; or if it’s otherwise just unbelievably fabulous, STOP! Consider the following before acting, and by all means, don’t provide your credit card information or send any money in advance!
Historically, scams have been geared toward new business owners, those hoping for ventures offering easy money, and individuals with limited skills wanting to work from home. Examples include coin-operated laundry-mats, gumball machines, stuffing envelopes, email processing assignments (no one’s really going to pay you $25 for every email you send), craft assembly including toys and dolls, medical billing, or discount and coupon programs.
Beware programs requiring a “small upfront investment” to buy equipment or supplies which either never arrive, or are worthless when received. Multi-level (pyramid) schemes have always been popular, but are unethical if not illegal altogether.They require an initial investment to obtain the “products”.
This is not to say that all such businesses are scams. There are many cosmetic, fragrance, home goods and other companies which market through individual representatives and are totally legitimate, while offering quality products. The point is, you simply have to do some research before getting involved with those enterprises that are NOT legitimate and only seek your hard-earned money.
The new generation of scammer preys on those desperate to save money by responding to online ads for financial, home security, or other services. We’ve all seen the email warning that our bank account is going to be suspended if we don’t sign in to reset our password.
Note, however, that a bank will NEVER ask for your password under any circumstances. That’s why the bank sends you a link to reset your password entirely if you forget it – they don’t know it! So, don’t ever fall for anyone online asking for your password – it’s a SCAM! My favorite is the free alarm system for your home. Do you really want to give someone your name, address, place of employment, cell number and bank account info for debiting the monthly monitoring charge and confirm that you don’t have an alarm system in your home?
Scams can appear in your mailbox as promotional campaigns, offering a special gift in exchange for a little personal information. What could go wrong, right? Con artists collect bits of information here and there to learn a lot about their mark.
Related Post: 5 Tips to Internet Safety for Everyone
You’d be amazed at the number of free vehicles, vacations and tablets I’ve won – all free! But alas, because I didn’t provide my personal information at the time of the call, I’ve never once been able to drive my new Dodge Durango to Cabo San Lucas while submitting an Internet fraud claim wirelessly on my new tablet! Where did I go wrong?
The next time you’re tempted with an irresistible online offer or fantastic bargain …
- Beware entering credit card information for hot gift items, which may be advertised on rogue/fake sites and social networks, when the goods are not actually available
- Never provide personal information to participate in a promotion or receive a “deep discount”
- Avoid downloading bonus features such as screen savers, ring tones, or gadgets which may contain malicious code designed to infect your computer to scrape personal financial information
- Beware of fake vacation rentals, particularly if no photos are included, and confirm the realtor site or individual offering the property for rent
- Never pay anything in advance until you are totally satisfied the company is legitimate
- Never respond to questions about home security, working hours, or members of the household
- Avoid the temptation of responding to “just a few simple questions” for anything online
General Online Safety Tips for Every Occasion
- Don’t open links in email from sources you don’t immediately recognize, and don’t reply to the message – doing so gives the scammer access to at least some of your personal information
- If the email arrives in your spam folder, even if you recognize the company, right-click the message to view the sourcewheneverpossible
- Once satisfied that a company is legitimate, check to see where the browser is pointing before entering your credit card information, i.e., https:www.(site name).com/.net/.org/etc.
- Get all promises and claims of success in writing and require two to three references for verifying detailed information about business procedures, performance, or other aspects that only someone in that industry or having bought the goods/service could provide
- Never accept a cashier’s check for merchandise you sell online, particularly in exchange for your returning the difference (really?), as cashier’s checks are among the most highly counterfeited items for banks (and, just as good information, even cashier’s checks can be stopped by the issuing party)
- Check out reviews for unfamiliar companies before conducting business, including using the Better Business Bureau to check for unresolved complaints
- Report all incidents of scam and spam to Twitter, Facebook, or other sites immediately
- Listen to negative reviews found online or from your friends and associates
- Never provide personal information to anyone inquiring online about your financial condition
- Don’t open email regarding failed delivery attempts for mail or merchandise
- Don’t open email related to suspending your account, even if you bank with the named institution
- Visit online forums about reports on the business or offerings
- Check your social networking sites for negative comments about suspect enterprises
- Verify that you can actually reach a company representative to answer your specific questions
- Look at the company’s website, including customer reviews and look for BBB or trade association links – and then confirm their rating with the BBB on its independent site