In a day and age where the Internet has become an indispensable part of our lives, it’s important to acknowledge the potential dangers the digital landscape brings – especially in the form of online scams.
With an exponential rise in digital payments owing to the pandemic, there’s been a staggering surge of nefarious schemes in the past few years. And unfortunately, the number of unsuspecting Pakistanis that have fallen for these scams is far from insignificant.
In this article, we’ll delve into some common tactics employed by scammers and telltale signs that give them away. Let’s dive in!
Understanding Online Scams
We’ve all heard of online scams, but what really are they?
These schemes are usually carried out over the Internet by installing malware but can be done on call too. The main aim is to trick victims into giving away their personal information or money.
Cybercriminals usually reach potential targets through personal or work email accounts, social networking websites, or mobile phone numbers. Successful online fraud often ends with the victim losing their money or identity.
5 Common Online Scams in Pakistan
Although internet scams continue to evolve, we can group them into categories. Here are some of the most common types of scams you’ll run into.
Phishing scams have been able to bait countless individuals in Pakistan – but you don’t have to be one of them. These scams entail cybercriminals masking themselves as legitimate entities, for example, banks, well-known online platforms, or even government bodies, through deceptive emails and text messages containing fake website links.
This is why, to protect yourself from phishing scams, you should make sure you’re communicating with legitimate sources and refrain from sharing personal information such as your banking PIN or login credentials.
Lottery and Prize Scams
Who doesn’t want to wake up to a text message claiming you’ve just won an iPad? No matter how bad a little part of you wants it to be true, you must listen to your gut. This is one of the most common frauds in Pakistan’s online landscape, and we can’t believe people still aren’t catching on!
Scammers often send you an enticing email or text message claiming you’ve won a lottery or an amazing prize. They’ll ask you for personal information or an upfront fee to claim this win – don’t fall for it! Especially if you’ve never entered a lottery or a lucky draw in the first place.
Job and Employment Scams
With unemployment and a turbulent job market being a major concern in Pakistan today, it’s no surprise that job and employment scams have become all too common. This internet fraud could find its way to you through a social media message, fake job posting, phone call, or even an unsolicited email advertising quick cash, flexible working hours, or work-from-home arrangements for no real work.
Once you secure this ‘job,’ you may be asked to make a deposit or fill out routine paperwork that requires you to provide your phone number, address, and banking information. Don’t be fooled! Always research potential employers and keep in mind that a legitimate job offer would never ask for an initial deposit.
Investment scams – often enticing individuals in the hunt for financial stability – come in several different forms.
Be it Ponzi schemes used to pay off early investors using money obtained from recent investors giving the illusion of profitable returns, or pyramid schemes, which rely on recruiting new participants, the ultimate goal of these deceptive business models is to generate as much wealth by tricking people into making investments.
Rule of thumb: if something seems to be too good to be true, it almost always is!
Online Shopping Scams
In the wake of the pandemic, Pakistan witnessed a digital revolution where online shopping took the Internet by storm.
While it’s great to have your favorite products delivered to your doorstep, you need to stay weary of online shopping scams.
Cybercriminals may create fake online shopping websites or listings, frequently replicating popular existing retailer websites and offering too-good-to-be-true deals that are often non-existent.
Victims provide their payment information, only to either never receive their desired item or receive something completely different from what was originally advertised.
Either way, your money’s unfortunately down the drain.
Top 5 Red Flags of Online Scams
In the vast sea of murky Internet waters, online scams can lurk around on any corner, so it’s crucial to have your radar up for those telltale red flags. Lucky for you, we’ve rounded up some important signs to look out for when encountering potential scams.
Poor Grammar and Spelling
Believe it or not, most online scams can be easily spotted – with poor spelling and grammar giving it away. Cybercriminals often make basic mistakes that legitimate organizations don’t. So, if you receive an email or text message containing strange phrases or misspelled words, something ‘phishy’ is definitely going on.
Suspicious URLs and Email Addresses
Is the ‘from’ email address unofficial, with a Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, or any other domain? Does the ‘from’ name differ from the email address? If you answered yes to any of those questions, we’re dealing with a scammer. Any trustworthy source will have a recognizable URL and email address; you’re welcome!
Pro tip: Secure websites use “https://” instead of “http://.”
Unsolicited Requests for Personal Information
Out-of-the-blue messages or emails asking for personal information are usually potential scams. Legitimate businesses and organizations will never ask you for sensitive data over email, text, or phone. So, if you receive an unexpected request asking you to renew your PIN, for example, treat it with a hefty pinch of suspicion.
Too Good to be True Offers and Promises
As the age-old saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. Scammers will often approach unsuspecting victims with enticing offers that are just too good to pass up. That could be a ridiculously low-priced product, an exclusive opportunity, or a high return on a small investment.
Pressure Tactics and Urgency
The pressure tactic is a psychological trick fraudsters often employ to create a sense of urgency and illusions of scarcity. No matter how much they coerce you into believing time is running out, you need to step back and remind yourself that legitimate opportunities will always give you ample time to make a well-informed decision.
Staying One Step Ahead
With new types of online fraud emerging in Pakistan, much like a game of whack-a-mole, it’s becoming increasingly important to stay vigilant and take proactive measures wherever necessary.
Have you or anyone you’re close to ever fallen prey to an online scam? Let us know how you dealt with it in the comments below!