Stay Alert: 7 Signs of Money Scams to Watch Out For

Olga Shirimova
May 28, 2020

In rainy times like these, it is especially important to keep your funds safe. Unfortunately, many people lose their hard-earned savings to scammers who play on their fear, anxiety, greed, despair, and other strong emotions. In this article, we will speak about 7 signs of money scams that apply both to fiat and cryptocurrencies. Every time you deal with a money offer (or a request), just refer to the checklist below.

Sign 1: It’s an Emergency Request

You receive a message from a person who impersonates your friend, boss, colleague, relative, etc. and asks you to transfer some money. It might be a big or a relatively small amount, but the sender is always pushy and leaves you no time for thinking.

For instance, your friend needs money for an emergency treatment, your kid has got into jail, your boss has forgotten some important financial information you know, and so on. Note that in the times of the global pandemic, a lot of corona-themed scams appeared, too. 

The solution to this family or work emergency is always money, and you must send it as soon as possible, normally by a wire transfer. In this case, money arrives very fast (before a sender realizes he’s been scammed). Also, a wire transfer cannot be undone: when money leaves your account, it’s lost for you.

Red flags: the message comes from a person you know well and creates a feeling of emergency. The sender wants money asap and prefers a wire transfer. Or another type of transfer you cannot undo, like a BTC transaction.

A Google scam: you have to answer a few easy questions to get a valuable prize worth $1,000. Image source: Google Help

Sign 2: It Looks Too Good to Be True

There is a wide range of online scam offers, falling under the “too-good-to-be-true” category. Here are some of the most popular ones:

  • You receive a happy message saying you have won a big prize because your name or email address was ‘randomly chosen’. There is always some link you must follow to claim the prize.
  • A “Nigerian prince” promises you great riches in return for some comparatively small financial support. Crypto scammers use this old-school method, too. Surprisingly, its variations still work.
  • The sender offers you an incredible bonus for a simple action (like registering on their website, downloading their app, following the link in the message, or transferring a small amount of money to the address/account he provides).
  • You are invited to buy something in an internet shop that has just opened (or is about to close). The price is incredibly low, the shipping is free, but the goods you paid for never arrive.

Sometimes the scammer impersonates an organization you know (your bank, a well-known service provider, a famous manufacturer, etc.)
It makes the offer look credible unless you examine it closely. Unfortunately, greed and FOMO make many people skip this step: they follow the scammer’s instructions to grab the “chance of a lifetime”. Normally, it leads to downloading malware that steals their data, or visiting a phishing site, or just sending money to a complete stranger.

Red flags: The scammer says you have been incredibly lucky, for no apparent reason, and urges you to do something asap before this window of opportunity closes forever. 

Before paying your “debt”, visit the official site of the federal service to know what they never do. Image source: PDR

Sign 3: It Contains Threats

Fear is one of the most powerful emotions and scammers often use it to cheat you out of your money. For example, they may impersonate some federal authority (like the State Revenue Service, or Federal Tax Service, or even FBI) that most citizens prefer not to mess with.

An official-looking letter says you failed to pay some tax (or committed another serious offense) and will go to jail. To avoid this penalty, you have to pay your debt as soon as possible, following the payment instructions attached. Also, the letter may contain a link leading to a fake website where you are expected to enter your financial details.

This scheme looks rather stupid, but it works well in countries where citizens lack trust in their governments and are afraid of them. Such people prefer to pay some money to be left alone.

Red flags: The scammers require you to transfer some money you owe them. If you don’t, you will get into trouble, or be publicly humiliated. Often, they pretend to be a federal service with broad powers. 

The padlock icon is a sign that you deal with a website that uses encryption. Image source: Moz://a

Sign 4: There’s No Padlock Icon

In the URL bar of the official website of your bank, or a big online marketplace, or a respected exchange, there is always a padlock icon. Also, their URLs start with HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure), and not with HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol).

These two things are generally seen as proof that the site is 100% legitimate and safe to deal with. But there’s always a but.

In fact, a padlock icon and an HTTPS abbreviation mean the website uses encryption to protect the data you enter there. Therefore, the communication between you and the site is safe, as no outsider can intercept your info (for instance, while you are using public Wi-Fi).

IMPORTANT: These signs do not mean that the website you are visiting is decent and legit. It’s rather easy for scammers to register a secure domain to lower your guard. So, we recommend you not to enter your personal data on any unfamiliar site just because it has a padlock in the right place. Before you do anything there, check for other signs of a scam.

Fake airdrop request: the message looks like a kid wrote it and contains some typos. Image source: Reddit

Sign 5: Bad Grammar, Spelling Mistakes

If you have seen many scam messages, you are probably wondering why these people never speak good English. Apart from laziness and a low level of education, there are three main reasons for it:

  • Intentional grammar and spelling mistakes help scammers filter out the people who are too smart to take the bait. The only goal of a scammer is making money, so if you are hard to deal with, you will waste their time. And if you can spot these mistakes, you are probably hard to deal with.
  • Spelling mistakes help scammers outsmart spam filters looking for the keywords cybercriminals typically use. Imperfect emails and texts have a better level of penetration than perfect ones. Therefore, they are more likely to reach the target audience.
  • In a personal message, some mistakes look rather natural. It creates the impression of authenticity and adds an element of human touch, especially if the scammer pretends to be a poor person asking for support, a kid, or a granny. In emergency messages, typos look like the sender is stressed and so pays no attention to the grammar and style.

Red flags: the text looks like something written by a kid, or like a bad machine translation. The punctuation is incorrect, too. Also, scammers tend to overuse exclamation marks.

Scammers may use dating sites to steal your money and personal info. 

Sign 6: They Want Your Financial and Personal Info

The ultimate goal of any scammer is to make you transfer money or share your sensitive information (for instance, on a fake website of your bank). So, every request of this kind should put you on guard. 

No matter what story a message tells you, just think twice before sharing your data with anyone online. 

Red flags: any request for your sensitive data (i.e. the details you normally don’t share), especially when it comes from a stranger.

Money for nothing: a Facebook scammer promises a crypto bonus to the “random winner”. Image source: Publish 0X

Sign 7: Unrealistic Promo Offers, Bonuses, Airdrops

If you are a crypto user, you are likely to receive a message inviting you to join a new generation exchange or to download a revolutionary wallet that is ten times better than any other. An exchange may be offering you extremely low fees or other bonuses — if you get registered and deposit funds today.

After you do it, the fees and other conditions suddenly change, and it becomes very difficult to withdraw your deposits. In the worst-case scenario, the exchange founders disappear with your funds. As for scam wallets, they may steal your details.

Red flags: there are many buzzwords like “revolutionary” but few or no technical details. The conditions of use are exceptionally good, the product is head and shoulders above the others.

If your “relative” says he’s abroad and needs money, just call the real person to check this info. Image source: Darienite.com

How to Avoid Money Scams: Key Rules 

  • Be skeptical of any promise that looks too good to be true. There is no reason why a stranger should make you special offers.
  • Watch out for grammar mistakes and misspellings, they are typical signs of a scam.
  • Avoid accepting offers that contain keywords like “one-time opportunity”, “available only today”, “last chance”, “best deal”, “no risk”. Especially, if there are spelling mistakes.
  • If you want to try a new exchange or wallet, reach out to the crypto community for reviews and make research.
  • Avoid downloading random wallet apps at Google Play or Apple Store. Instead, do it on the decent provider’s website.
  • In case you receive an emergency message from a family member or a colleague, call this person to make sure they sent it.
  • Don’t open attachments that look suspicious. Before following any link sent by email, do some critical thinking.
     
  • Use bookmarks to reach the sites where you enter your sensitive info.
  • Check for the padlock in the URL bar, but remember it doesn’t ensure 100% protection from frauds.

We hope this information will help you better protect your money from those who seek to steal it. Share these 7 signs of money scams with your friends and relatives: forewarned is forearmed.

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