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These days, the internet seems to be riddled with scams. But you know the drill: “Just send me $100, and I’ll teach you how to make a lot of money.” Wait a minute, doesn’t that set off alarm bells? Sure, it does. But then, not all scams follow this cookie-cutter approach to get you to fall for them. Some prey on our weaknesses and naivety and are so difficult to spot that we only realize that we’ve been played after parting with our hard-earned money.

These fraudulent practices come in various guises—from romance to scareware—and are made to look legit. Do they work? Absolutely. The United States is a case in point, with a large percentage of the American population bleeding money to a surge in scams. And numbers, they say, don’t lie. According to Social Catfish, the financial losses have soared from $6.9 billion in 2021 to $10.3 billion in 2022, during which over 800,000 complaints have been reported. 

This staggering figure is a stark reminder that technology while offering unlimited possibilities for good, can also be a boon for criminals. So, how do you avoid getting ripped off online? The answer lies in having “online spatial awareness”, which can only happen if you know what to look out for. That said, here are the four most common internet scams and how to protect yourself against them. 

Scam #1: Dating Scam

There’s a fine line between love and money, and scammers take full advantage of that. They set up fake profiles on dating sites, promising eternal love or whirlwind romance. Once you start talking to them and the conversation builds up, they’ll quickly switch to an instant messaging app like WhatsApp to avoid detection. In no time, they’ll start asking for money to address one pitiable problem or the other. 

For your safety, never send money to someone you’ve only met online, no matter how sweet or vulnerable they appear. As much as you want that love and romance to come true, there’s a good chance that it won’t, as the person you’re talking to may be a scammer.  

If you’re feeling generous, insist on a face-to-face meeting in a public place to verify their authenticity; most scammers would balk at this point. However, before going out with someone you barely know, use Nuwber, a people search website, to reveal who stands behind the phone number from which you receive romantic messages. 

Scam #2: Free Wi-Fi Hotspot Trap

We all love free Wi-Fi, but using it comes at a high cost sometimes. Hackers can entice victims to connect to open Wi-Fi networks in public places like coffee shops or airports. Once you’ve connected, they’ll gain access to your personal data, like bank account details and social media credentials for their nefarious gains. To avoid falling prey to this scam, always disable your devices from auto-connecting to open Wi-Fi networks. 

If you must join one, verify the correct network name with a staff member. In addition, employ a VPN and run a security check on your device after connecting. Whatever you do, don’t conduct financial transactions on such public networks. 

Scam #3: Hiring Scam

Recruitment scams are commonplace on the internet, with job seekers being the main targets. In this scam, a fraudster reaches out to potential victims, informing them of a vacant position for which they’re perfectly suited. The fraudster then requests certain information to expedite the recruitment process, or worse, they demand money to cover expenses or fees associated with the position. 

In most cases, the victim ends up divulging confidential information and paying the requested amount, only to realize later that the company and job posting don’t exist. Not only does the victim lose money, but they also risk facing the consequences of identity theft. 

This scam thrives because of the soaring unemployment rate triggered by the global economic collapse. As a result, the job market is filled with desperate applicants looking to earn a living and support their families. In their quest to find the best-paying job, many of them fall for one of these fictitious lucrative offers. In fact, some even go as far as paying for the job opportunity, believing their spot is guaranteed and they will soon recoup their “investment.” 

Remember, no reputable company will ever ask for money to hire you. If someone does, hit the block button and report their account. Be wary of unsolicited calls and emails. If you are unsure about an offer, cross-check the job opening on the company’s official website. If possible, contact the HR department or support team to confirm the offer. 

Likewise, be on the lookout for red flags such as grammatical errors and generic job descriptions. Also, verify if the sender’s email address matches that of the real company. Remember to never send your personal information, like your social security number to an employer until after a successful in-person interview and after you have conducted a background check on the business. 

Scam #4: The Pop-Up Scareware

Have you ever received a phishing email or pop-up that claimed your device was infected with a virus, and to be free, you need to download and install a program from a trusted website? If yes, you’ve experienced the pop-up scareware. These messages have a sense of urgency and generally come with a link you are to click to install an antivirus or anti-malware. 

When you install the software, it infects your device and prevents you from accessing certain programs. As long as scammers have access to your device, they can spy on your activities, steal your passwords and credit card information, and possibly blackmail you. 

Therefore, never download any software from an unsolicited email or click on links in any pop-ups, text messages, or emails. If you receive one, report it and don’t reply. 


Online scams are now more sophisticated than ever. For this reason, you should stay on your guard and think twice before clicking any links or downloading files. When in doubt, ask yourself: does this seem too good to be real? Chances are, it is. And remember, knowledge is power; with the right information, you can protect yourself against scammers.


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