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Have You Heard Of These Common Scams?

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Family LifePost Category - Family LifeFamily Life - Post Category - Career & MoneyCareer & Money

It’s heartbreaking when you or someone you know falls for a scam. The feelings of betrayal and helplessness can be overwhelming, and often, it’s hard to shake off the experience and loss of trust in others.

Many of us have either encountered (and hopefully avoided!) a scam or know people who have fallen for one; if you haven’t, count yourself lucky for now because scammers seem to be multiplying by the day. In fact, the Hong Kong Police recently released a report saying that there’s been a 42.6% rise in cases of deception, or scams, last year alone. And that number is just for the recorded scams, plenty of victims don’t bother to make a report out of shame or frustration.

To help you stay aware, we’ve compiled some of the most common online scams and ways to identify and deal with them. However, it’s important to remember that new scams are coming out all the time, and while we don’t want you to grow paranoid, you should always take the necessary precautions and listen to your gut.

Read More: Building A Budget – Steps To Becoming Money Savvy

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Phishing Scams

A phishing scam is where scammers trick you into handing over personal information, including passwords or credit card numbers. Phishing scammers often “spoof’ or pretend to be trusted institutions, like banks or government departments in order to fool victims. They might send you an email that looks like it came from a legitimate email address or create a fake website that looks just like your bank’s website, a delivery site or a social media platform in order to fool you into entering your login and password. Phone numbers can be spoofed as well, and some scammers will use numbers that closely resemble official government or hospital numbers.

Buy And Sell Phishing Scams

Phishing scammers like to target sellers on buy and sell sites like Facebook Marketplace. They’ll pretend to be serious buyers and often won’t bother negotiating the price. However, once you confirm the sale, they’ll tell you that they’re not in town or have to take a sudden trip somewhere. Instead of meeting you in person, they’ll ask to pre-pay for delivery, using the services of a trusted courier like DHL or SF Express, and will send you a link with the “pre-paid delivery option”.

The link is a phishing attempt to get you to reveal your personal information or to download malware into your mobile phone or computer.

Financial Scams

These phishing scams usually appear in the form of an official-looking email from your bank or insurance company, or else, you’ll receive a call from someone who says that they work for an institution that you’re a client of. Often, these scammers try to frighten you by saying that they’ve detected an unusual transaction (usually a huge amount) or that you’ve missed an important payment. They’ll then ask you to share your personal details or click on a link.

Read More: Financial Planning For University And College Education

Online Shopping Scams & Other ‘Fine’ Scams

This particular scam is an elaborate one that confuses victims by preying on their fear and panic. The scammer pretends to be a customer service representative from a shopping platform such as Amazon, telling the victim that their account has been compromised or hacked, and that the hacker has purchased a huge number of expensive items. However, until the hacker is caught, the victim is being accused of money laundering and fraud. You can imagine how frightened someone would feel after learning that they’re on the hook for thousands of dollars of purchases that they didn’t make and, on top of that, they might be facing a long jail term.

The scammer will often know the victim’s name and personal details (usually taken from phishing scams, that’s why it’s so important to keep these a secret!) and use this to further frighten and intimidate the victim. They also pull in fake law enforcement or security to trick the victim into trusting them.

The ultimate goal of this type of scam is to get victims to transfer money over to the scammers in order to avoid money laundering or other criminal charges. It sounds preposterous and unbelievable, but an American financial writer was recently scammed out of US$50,000 through this method.

Though not in the same league, some scam emails state that a person or business is eligible for a fine because of something done unwittingly, but no further action will be taken if the fine is paid on time. These emails are usually very convincing because they are based on the line of work (a copyright infringement fine, for example, for content creators). It can be alarming because no one wants to step on the wrong side of the law.

Air Miles Scams

This is a simple scam that manages to pull in a lot of victims who are looking for a deal. Usually, the scammer puts out a post on social media claiming to have thousands of air miles that they are willing to exchange for a relatively low amount of money because the miles are about to expire.

However, for one reason or another and usually citing security reasons, the scammer will insist on the victim opening a crypto wallet and deposit their payment there. At that point, the scammer will ask the victim to hand over the crypto wallet’s keys (which provide access to the payment), and the victim will lose the ability to get their money back.

Romance Scams

Probably the most notorious scam out there, romance scams have boomed thanks to dating apps, but these don’t just happen online. Hong Kong has its own version of the Tinder Swindler, a man who managed to defraud and steal from a number of people before being caught and deported back to Scotland. There are plenty of tragic stories out there of victims losing their life savings and even going to jail because of romance scammers.

Romance scammers usually begin by pretending to be wealthy men who have jobs that require them to travel frequently, and once they’ve established a rapport with their victims, they’ll begin to slowly siphon them of money and gifts. Romance scams are one of the more despicable types of scams out there because they prey on vulnerable people (often single ladies, widows and helpers) who often give up their hard-earned money out of affection and generosity.

Read More: Where To Go To Make A Will And Guardianship Documents In Hong Kong

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Click Farm Job Scams

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Unlike scams that strike fear in a victim or prey on their loneliness, these job scams usually target a victim’s need or desire to earn money. You’ve seen those ads promising lucrative, work-from-home jobs that don’t require any special skills or training; all you have to do is perform easy tasks on an app such as liking social media posts or watching a video.

Each time you complete a task, you’ll be given a commission, which is either put inside a crypto wallet or in a bank account that you and the scammer can both access. The trick here is that after you earn your first commission (usually a relatively low amount but enough to keep you going) and begin to trust the scammers, you’ll be given tasks that require a small deposit before they can be “unlocked”.  Only after you complete the task can you unlock your deposit and retrieve your money.

As you continue to unlock tasks and earn more commission, the deposits grow bigger and bigger until you can’t afford to pay them, and you lose access to the money in your crypto wallet or account.

What Can You Do To Avoid Scams?

Most importantly, be vigilant and never share private or personal information with strangers. As a rule of thumb, don’t click on links sent you by anyone who you don’t know personally. Luckily for us in Hong Kong, the Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau has launched an app called Scameter+ that identifies scam numbers and websites. All you have to do is enter the suspicious number or website into the app, which will cross-reference it in its scam database and alert you in real time. You can also report numbers and websites in the app, which will then go through a risk assessment procedure to analyse whether or not they’re actually scams.

For more information, you can check out the Scameter+ website, which also has tips for parents and teachers on keeping children safe from online predators.

Read More: 5 Ways To Financially Prepare To Be A Parent In Hong Kong

Main image courtesy of Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels, image 1 courtesy of Bermix Studio via Unsplash, image 2 courtesy of Anete Lusina via Pexels.

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