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Top Ten Online Scams

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The Internet makes it easier to accomplish many things -- banking, research, travel, and shopping are all at our virtual fingertips. And just as the Internet makes it easier for legitmate pursuits, it also makes it easier for scammers, con artists, and other online miscreants to carry out their virtual crimes- - impacting our real life finances, security, and peace of mind. Online scams are constantly evolving, but here are the most common ones today.

1. Phishing scams

Man using laptop on sofa
Richard Drury/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Phishing email try to trick the intended victim into visiting a fraudulent website disguised to look like a valid eCommerce or banking site. The victim thinks they are logging into their real account, but instead everything they enter on the fake site is being sent to the scammers. Armed with this information, the scammer can wipe out the victim's accounts, run up their credit cards, or even steal their identity.

2. Nigerian 419 Scams

Nigerian 419 scams (aka Advanced Fee Fraud) date back to the days when fax machines and snail mail were the primary business communication tools. Today, email is the preferred method of these scammers and there are more Nigerian 419 Advanced Fee Fraud scams - and victims - than ever before.

3. Greeting Card Scams

Greeting card scams arrive in email pretending to be from a friend or family member. Clicking the link to view the card typically leads to a booby-trapped web page that downloads Trojans and other malicious software onto the systems of the unsuspecting.

4. Shopper Needed Check Fraud Scam

The shopper-needed scam sends the 'new hire' a check for a few hundred dollars, instructing them to cash the check and take their portion, then forward on the remaining funds to the "employer". Of course, the check is bogus, it will bounce eventually, and you - the victim - will be liable for the funds you spent from the check, plus the amount you forwarded on, plus any service fees or fines that result.

5. Reshipping and Payment Processing Fraud

The ad should read: Help Wanted to illegally launder money on behalf of criminals. But it doesn't. Instead it couches the crime in soft terms like 'payment processing' and 'reshipping transactions'. Don't be fooled - victims not only find themselves engaged in illegal activity, but they will also be on the legal hook for the entire amount transferred and any fees that result.

6. Lottery Winning Scams

Lottery winner scams attempt to trick recipients into believing they have won large sums of cash, and then bilks them out of their own dough in a similar fashion to the Nigerian 419 scam.

7. Pump and Dump Stock Scams

Pump and dump scams send large volumes of email that pretend to disclose confidential information about a particular stock in an attempt to inflate the price.

8. Fraudulent Link Scams

Scams, in general, are the new malware delivery method. Social engineering is the norm. Falsifying a link is the hallmark of phishing scams, seeded downloader Trojans, and other web-based malware. And it's all trivially easy to do, using basic HTML.

9. Killer Spam: Hitman Email Threatens Recipients

Imagine opening your email inbox and reading a message from an alleged assassin - claiming you're the target. It sounds like something out of a horror movie, but it's been happening in real life to hundreds of people. The gist of the email - pay the hitman thousands of dollars, or die.

10. Scareware Scams

Scareware erroneously claims the system is infected and instructs the user to purchase a 'full version' in order to clean the bogus infections. Sometimes, fake antivirus software gets installed by the user who fell victim to an advertising scam. Other times, a rogue antispyware scanner may be installed by exploit, a so called 'drive-by install'. Regardless of how the rogue software gets installed, the user is often left with a hijacked, crippled system. To avoid becoming a victim, before installing any software over the Internet search on the name of the product using your favorite search engine. Don't skip this step and you'll go along ways towards a safer online experience.

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