WebsiteCompass 13 Back to Basics How to Spot an Online Scam Learn how scammers use fear to try and get you to do what they want Watch out for messages that relate to one of these four categories: 1. You’re Missing Out Say you get an email stating you’ve won a fabulous prize and all you need to do to claim it is send money via wire transfer to pay for “processing fees.” Or perhaps it says all you need to do is provide your banking information so the awarding entity can deposit your prize money directly into your account. Not wanting to miss out on the prize, you comply. The result? You’re out the money you sent them and never see the prize, or your bank account gets emptied instead of a deposit being made. How to spot: Be suspicious of requests to give something in order to get some- thing from a person you don’t know. 2. Something Bad is Happening The fear of something bad happening is an entirely rational one. But it’s still a fear, and one that can make you do irrational things. The scam here could be something like getting a call on the phone from a stranger telling you your computer has a virus, and they can help you eliminate it. They then proceed to take your credit card information, promising to send you a software pro- gram in return. But, now your credit card has been charged, or the number has been sold, and there was never anything wrong with your computer to begin with. How to spot: If you’re told by a stranger that something bad is happening, confirm it for yourself. In the above example, if you haven’t been having any computer troubles, that’s a serious red flag. 3. Someone Is in Trouble Whether it’s someone you know or not, part of human nature is wanting to help people in trouble. That’s why the Nigerian email scam has been around for so long and continues to be effective. Here’s how it works: You receive a The best way to recognize an online scam is to understand how they work. Most of them are based on manipulating your emotions or capitalizing on one particular emotion— fear. Scammers are confident that at least some of their targets will be fearful enough to do what they want and, unfortunately, they’re often right.