Exactly nine years ago I got my first computer. Like a naive and excited teen, I started exploring the internet, doing usual internet stuff like, connect with people, play online games, watch movies, etc.
One day I landed on a page, and the first thing that popped up was a flashy ad saying that I was the 100th visitor on the site and I had won USD 100,000,000 and a US Green Card. I couldn’t believe my luck and in awestruck by this amazing opportunity I quickly clicked on the link to claim the reward without giving it much thought (I was only fourteen after all, albeit a greedy one.)
Needless to say, my computer had a short lifespan (RIP) and I had to learn the hard way the perils of the Internet, one of those being scamming.
What is exactly scamming, you might wonder?
Scamming is defined as a fraudulent scheme performed by a dishonest individual, group, or company in an attempt to obtain money or something else of value. In other words, a scam is indented to fool you into giving away your cash, personal details or data by offering an alluring arrangement or false data. There are thousands of types of scams today from phishing to opportunity scams, but most boil down to stealing money, property, or information.
Many people nowadays are in constant search for opportunities to study abroad, visit a new country, attend a conference, or win a fellowship, and with the rise of platforms sharing information about opportunities, it is easy for scammers to also advertise. So, if you are wondering how you can determine if a global opportunity is actually a scam, here are six signs to watch out for:
- Unsolicited invitations and opportunities you did not apply for: You can’t win a contest you didn’t enter. You can’t win a lottery unless you bought a ticket. So if you’re approached out of the blue, about an opportunity you did not apply for, be cautious. Most of the opportunities require an application, so you’d hardly “win” anything or get invited to attend a conference you didn’t apply.
- There are grammatical and spelling errors: When renowned organizations offer an opportunity, they usually have their content proofread and checked by professionals before publishing the call. So, grammatical and typographical errors should raise your suspicion. A simple scan through the emails and the website can give away these kinds of errors which definitely are a red flag!
- You’re asked for personally identifiable information: If the email is asking for personal information or identifiers (e.g., your bank account information, social security number, payment card details, birth date, insurance details and more), it might be a scam. Individual data is something you shouldn’t be unreservedly sharing, so on the off chance that you get a call or message requesting it, practice incredible alert.
- When payment is required from you: Be very wary if the first thing that you are asked to do after you get an invitation, is to pay. This is a strong telltale sign that the opportunity is not genuine. This does not mean though that every opportunity that requires some form of payment is a scam, no! However, if payment is genuinely required for things like registration, you would be informed upfront, during the call for application.
- An undue sense of urgency to take a certain action: Another tactic that scammers use is to make threats or pressure you into making a decision. They may do this by conveying a sense of urgency – perhaps by setting a short deadline and thus manipulating you to take action like make the requested payment, send personal information, click a certain link, etc.
- Offers that sound too good to be true: Nobody is going to give you a USD 100,000,000 just because you clicked on a site (yep, I know now), so remember, if an opportunity feels too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure to think critically and do your own research to learn more about the offer before agreeing to anything or paying money. If you don’t, you may get scammed.
How to handle these situations and what are the steps you can take?
- Do an extensive background check
On the off chance that you see any of the notice signs above – however despite everything you need to push ahead – how can you do so securely? Get more information. Research the individual or business being referred to until you’re 100 percent sure that you’re not getting ripped off. Simply recollect that scammers can be persuading and understanding – they’ll converse with you for quite a long time (over numerous weeks or months) to make you feel great. Discuss the situation that you are in with a companion or relative, and search for comparable stories on the web – you may be amazed at what you find.
Using a reputable search engine can make the process of finding a legitimate program or a position that much smoother and more efficient.
- Take your time
In these cases, it’s better to take a step back and think! Don’t let anyone rush you. With every opportunity, you come across, ask questions like: Is this realistic? Does it come from an existing and reputable body? Is the email legitimate? – any authentic organization has its own domain and will in this way have emails addresses that reflect their specific name, for example: [email protected]. Rushing in these stances can often land you into fraudster’s nets.
When you have established with certainty that the opportunity is indeed a scam, it’s often a good idea to report it to an international fraud-fighting body or many other sites which can ensure the publishing of the scam format you encountered so that other people can easily identify it and not fall prey. Plainly, just get the word out there! Who knows, you could save someone’s time and money, or computer.
Author: Sihana Etemi is a Digital Marketing Assistant at INVK and a Mladiinfo volunteer. She is an information junkie with a passion for technology and a penchant for quick wit. When Sihana isn’t glued to a computer screen, she spends time going out with friends, learning French, and reading astronomy books.
Editor: Sanja Cvetkovikj