A Deep Dive into Web Scams

What exactly are web scams?

Web scams are illegitimate internet websites used to deceive users into fraud or malicious attacks. These types of websites are built by scammers who completely hide their identities in various ways. Common web scams can include giveaways, false security alerts, and other deceptive formats to give the impression of legitimacy.

If you’re anything like myself then you are extremely wary when browsing the internet, but even people who are cautious and have extra security can still be targeted by cybercriminals, sometimes even by text and personal messages in Facebook Messenger.

Is internet privacy dead?

I often wonder how much privacy everyone still has while browsing the internet, enjoying social media, and filling out seemingly innocent web forms. Every time you browse the Internet today, your privacy is under constant threat from cybercriminals, governments, and corporations who want to get their hands on your personal information.

With modern scammers becoming more intelligent with who they target and when it can get confusing as to why it is so easy to fall victim to any type of scam and how all of our data is quickly being sold and traded all over the place. The topic of internet privacy or digital privacy really grinds my gears and I rant write about this all day long. But in this post, I want to focus on the different types of scams that you may have come across and ones that are unfamiliar. Keep reading to discover the top 6 scams actively used today.

scammers fraud and theft for web scams

Top 6 web scams to be wary of

  1. COVID-19 vaccination card scams – Lately with the wave of vaccinations, people are proud to share immediately on social media with friends and family. They often show their card with their personal information fully visible.
  2. Social Security scam calls –  You get a scary phone call saying your Social Security number was used in a crime — and you’ll be arrested soon if you don’t send money to fix it. When this happened to me for the first time I immediately became worried and started asking the caller questions. Once I realized something was off, I called them out, and they hung up right away. Scammers most of the time won’t waste time if they know they are busted.
  3. Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment scams – Consumers are increasingly looking for contactless payment options to keep themselves and vendors safe. As a result, the use of peer-to-peer mobile payment apps such as CashApp, Venmo, and Zelle is growing. scammers have adapted their tactics to take advantage of the quick and often anonymous access to cash that they provide.
  4. Phishing email scams – These types of scams are carried out online by tech-savvy con artists and identity theft criminals. They use spam, fake websites constructed to look identical to real sites. Once you take the phisher’s bait, they can use the information to create fake accounts in your name, ruin your credit, and steal your money or even your identity.

  5. Online romance scams – Scammers typically lure their romance marks off of sites that may be monitored and onto Google Hangouts, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger, where no one’s watching. UGH. Not long after they will hit you up for money, hate to say that this method is very successful for the lonely looking for love. 
  6. Make money fast scams (Economic scams) – Cybercriminals will lure you into believing you can make money easy and fast on the internet. They’ll promise you non-existent jobs, including plans and methods of getting rich quickly. It is a quite simple and effective approach, because it addresses a basic need for money, especially when someone is in a difficult financial situation. 

But how do web scams work?

Web scam websites and scammers work in a wide variety of ways, from publishing misleading information to promising wild rewards in a financial exchange like in the examples listed above. The end goal is almost always the same: to get you to relinquish your personal or financial information. This is extremely terrifying and can happen to anyone even the most cautious people because some scammer play on emotions and use friends and family as bait to trick and outsmart you.

The process of the modern web scam will usually go in the order of:

  • BaitAttackers draw internet users to the website through various distribution channels.  (in my experience, a couple of ways I’ve noticed the bait trick is when there was a sense of urgency to a problem a family member had but no personal outreach. Communication was always via social media texts and I quickly reach out to that person to let them know they were hacked. Yikes)
  • Compromise – Users take an action that will expose their information or devices to the attacker. (it is very easy to give our personal information when you are promised certain things in return, like a quick financial gain or any security risk that plays on fear for not acting right away.)
  • Execute – Attackers exploit the users to misuse their private information for personal gain or to infect their devices with malicious software for various purposes.

How do you identify fake websites?

There are simple ways to help protect yourself while web browsing and avoid making common mistakes that will land you in a world of hurt.

  • Poor Design Quality – Web scammers are always ready to make a quick buck and usually, this means cutting corners when they can. Badly designed online marketing collateral and landing pages are an easy way to notice a red flag. With modern web builds, even small businesses just starting out show their legitimacy by creating a well-designed website. Low resolution and odd layouts are a quick giveaway.
  • Weird Grammar Issues – Look for things like spelling mistakes, broken or stilted English, or really obvious grammar errors, such as the incorrect use of plural and singular words. But these mistakes may not even be done by accident, you may wonder why scammers are sometimes intentional with errors.
  • Unidentified Web PAges – Common websites won’t have simple pages like the “contact” or “about us” If you’re uncertain, reach out to the business. If a business is consistently not answering, there is a reason for them to be nonverbal.
  • Emotional Language & Urgency –  If you come across anything the may heighten your emotions or give you the feeling of urgency to act fast to protect your identity and data, you will be doing the opposite if you follow through and put your info at risk.

In Conclusion:

As our society continues to grow & thrive online, it is vital that we stay informed and up to date on the latest potential threats and share them on our own personal social media to warn others. When in doubt, do your research, check domain names and make sure you have a secure connection. If you ever become a victim of web scamming related to fraud and finances, be sure to check out this national website, which details what you can do to help your situation and help take down the scammers. For a full list of scams, check out the Scam Glossary provided by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission).