Did you know that it is estimated that over 90% of people in the UK use the internet? Millions of us go online daily, and cyberspace has brought with it many benefits, including the ability to communicate globally, social media and online shopping.
However, there is a dark side to the web – every year thousands of internet users fall victim to internet fraud.
What is internet fraud?
If a fraudster uses the internet or its services to extort, defraud or take advantage of victims, this is classed as internet fraud.
Internet fraud, often known as cyber fraud, occurs all around the world, and can be used to gain access to personal information, spread viruses, or trick victims into handing over money.
Some of the most renowned internet fraudsters have been known to gain millions of pounds from victims across the globe.
What types of internet fraud should you look out for when you’re online?
The rise of the internet has brought with it countless opportunities for fraudsters to con victims through various means. Therefore, it’s more important than ever to be on the lookout for different types of internet fraud when browsing the web.
Some of the most common types of fraud that take place online include:
Scam e-commerce sites: This type of fraud occurs when a fraudster sets up a fake e-commerce site, which advertises products that they have no intention of selling. This could be that the products themselves are of an inferior quality than advertised, or even that they don’t exist.
The unsuspecting victim, thinking they are going to get an item in return, puts their card details into the site and is charged for something they never receive. Some fraudsters even continue to take money from the victim’s account after an original transaction has taken place, this is also known as credit card fraud.
Government scams: Some fraudsters send out emails claiming to be from the government. In these emails they will suggest that the government is holding money for the victim, and to collect it all they have to do is send some confirmation details to them.
Identity theft: This type of fraud occurs when a criminal uses deceitful means to pretend to be someone else online. This could be done to gain personal information from a victim, or even get them to send money to help a ‘friend’ in need.
Spam emails: Spam, or junk mail, is when mass emails are sent out. These emails contain links that may send the victim to useless or malicious websites, hack your computer or send a virus to your PC.
There are many other types of internet fraud, so it’s important to be aware at all times when you’re online.
Ways to avoid becoming a victim of internet fraud
Being a victim of internet fraud can be a distressing time. You could have lost a substantial amount of money, or your personal information could have been announced somewhere online. Even though there are measures in place to help victims of cyber fraud, it’s best to stay alert online to avoid it happening to you in the first place.
Even though you can never be 100% sure that you’re going to avoid being a victim of internet fraud, there are some techniques you can use to make it harder for fraudsters to target you.
When making a purchase online, try to make sure that you always buy from a well-known and trusted retailer. If you’ve never heard of the site, find some reviews using your search engine, if they’re mostly negative, it’s best to steer clear. Another good technique is to take a look at the website’s ‘contact’ page. If there’s no contact number, or the number is not from the country that the retailer claims to operate in, alarm bells should ring.
If you receive a suspicious or strange email from a friend or family member, especially if they ask for money, check with them offline before replying. If you receive an email from the government claiming that they are holding money from you, delete it. The UK government will never contact you via email.
If you get any emails from unknown addresses claiming that you have won a prize, don’t click the link as it’s probably spam. A good technique to avoid spam emails is to use an email service that has a good spam filter, this way malicious emails won’t even reach you.
Remember: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
Unsure about an e-commerce website? Ask these questions:
- Is the language and grammar on the website correct? Many fraudulent e-commerce sites operate in countries outside of the UK, so a poor command of the English language implies that the site is not legit.
- Is the URL simple? The vast majority of legit sites have short and memorable URLs. So www.clothes.com is probably legit, whereas www.cheapest-clothes-online-4u.com is most likely a scam.
- Does the design of the website look professional? Scam sites are usually made in the least expensive way possible, so often look cheap and unprofessional.
- Is there a clear refund policy? Legit websites will offer a clear and fair refund policy on clothing (usually up to 30 days or so). If the website in question does not have a refund policy, or it’s policy is confusing, then it’s best to steer clear.