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Thursday, 4 April 2019

Attributes of online scams and how to avoid them

The internet is a great place to meet wonderful people and do business but some dissenters are utilising the opportunity for evil.
Online scamming are becoming rampant these days and unsuspecting victims are losing their hard earned money each day to these notorious individuals hiding behind computers to commit evils. Some scams are carefully and smartly organised in such a way as to completely capture people's mind and easily earn their trust through phoney write ups and websites in a way that mimics genuine businesses. Scammers can be very charming and persuasive in their dealings and some have become very successful at it. I, myself, have fallen a victim of these scams and I know how it feels to lose your hard-earned money to cunning psychopaths on the internet. This is what compelled me to write this article to help people stay safe online. But, does this mean there are no genuine people online? Certainly, there are a few trustworthy individuals or businesses that uphold good virtues and integrity. These individuals are no doubt rare. So, how do we separate the wheat from the chaff and know genuine people whom business can be safely done with? The answer lies in this post as I'll mention some helpful tips that can be used in identifying criminals and avoiding them.

Attributes of scammers/online scams

1. Ridiculously good offer

If it's too good to be true, then it's most possibly a scam. Most of online scams are targeted towards the greedy individuals, promising high rewards, attractive prices that are not found anywhere.

2. Lack of verifiable identity

Does the suspected scammer have an identity? Can he be traced if anything goes haywire? Most scammers have no traceable identity trackable online or offline. Can his identity be found on Facebook, Twitter or any popular social media? Is the identity on these social platforms connected to any real individual? If 'no' is the answers to these questions, then the suspect is most certainly a scammer.

3. Fake website reveiws

Don't be deceived by website reviews. Some scams online are very intelligently designed in such a way that any unsuspecting user could easily fall for it. Reviews found on websites and even social medias can be bought. But, does this mean online reviews are no longer trustworthy? No! Online reviews especially written on popular review website where people write their experience about any website are helpful and reliable. But, reviews on the same website can be manipulated or bought.

4. Sudden rise in fake popularity

Is the website name new to you or came up recently and it's already throwing its ads all over the internet and boasting of outrageous amount of unrealistic feedbacks within their short period of sprawning up from nowhere? Run, my dear sister/brother, they are most certainly fake and planning to rip you.

5. Marketing of information about making wealth overnight

They market wealth making information and promise to reveal some obscure secrets to making wealth. They'll do this confidently, boastfully and in a way that keeps the reader wondering and wanting to know more. They'll lure you to buying their ebooks through empty promises of vague wealth and unimaginable riches that abound in their yet-to-be revealed secret.

6. Professed professionalism

Don't be deceived by their claims. They create an air of exaggerated professionalism. If the product or service they claim to offer is popular as target of online scamming, then another reason to be more cautious. They worked so hard at priding themselves as offering the best services. Does your instinct question you about the feasibility of such services? Do you smell foul play, air of dishonesty or hanky-panky in their business description? Does the service they claim to offer sound unimaginable and too good to be true? If your answers to these questions are 'yes', run! They put a lot of efforts in designing a website that looks genuine but some of the essential services of a quality websites are not functional even though you will see these services as being offered by the website. Example, you'll find a contact support service where you can submit form to contact support directly from the website but you ain't going to receive reply from any support. The link to their live chat wouldn't show any representative online to respond to you. They are websites that boast excessively about their staff but you won't get any reply if you contact them directly from the contact support link on their websites.

7. Captivating write ups

Do you find yourself gaining confidence momentarily at a high pace while reading the write ups on their websites? Scammers or con artists put so much effort in gaining your confidence and trust that you are in fact dealing with the right person. They will write excessively long articles with most effort directed towards gaining your trust. You'll get to know how much they have played on your emotions (not intelligence) when you falled a victim.

8. Long ramble article with how-to title on well sought after topics

The articles on these scam websites contain long combination of unnecessary topics bloated with keywords and discordant paragraphs of unnecessary information in order to gain traffic from Google. But, that's not to say some scam websites don't have well written piece with perfect grammar. I believe some of these scammers don't work alone and as such they employ people that help them achieve their goals.

9. Misleading business name

Scammers are notorious for using name similar to reputable companies in an attempt to use their credibility and reputation to gain people's trust and confidence that the scam is related to such company.

10. Instant blocking after payment

If you have any deal with them on social media, they'll block your account after transacting with them. But, don't let it reach that stage. This is just a sign that you have certainly been scammed.

List of online scams in order of popularity

1. Cryptocurrency investment

This is the #1 space online that is most popular object of scam. Due to the anonymous nature of popular cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, scammers find this field a safe haven for perpetrating crimes. They will claim to be able to double your bitcoin asset within an hour. Some of them will even brand themselves as traders and promise you monthly ROI (return on investment) only to end up running with your money. 

2. Gift cards scammers

I suffered a huge loss from these people. They will offer to buy your gift cards at a higher rate different from what you can get anywhere. Once you send them your gift cards, they either marvel you by telling you your gift cards are used whereas they redeemed it themselves, or they block you instantly. 

3. Exchanger services

Beware of some people that claim to buy and sell ecurrencies like PayPal funds, perfect money, skrill, cryptocurrencies, and even fiat currencies like USD/NGN. These set of notorious people, like the rest, capture you with their highly favourable exchange rate and at the end, you end up losing your assets to them. 

4. Data reselling

Some hungry con artists have also found their ways here by luring people to patronise their cheap data bundles. Once you pay them, they wouldn't send you any data and they will block you instantly. These set of criminals have made genuine data retailers look like scammers.

Investigating a scam website/scammer

Investigating a scam website especially for the purpose of identifying the identity behind it is possible but some scammers are far intelligent that most information about them are fake. But inorder to find any useful information that may belong to website owner, there are some helpful tools that can be utilised.

Using whois.com

A quick check on www.whois.com can reveal certain details about the registrant of a domain name. The details include contact information, that's if the scammer didn't use a fake identity for his registration and he actually did register the domain name by himself. In some cases, the contact details are absent and only a few details are shown by whois.com for some domain names.

Google search business names

Search on Google by adding reveiw to the name of suspected scammer or website. For instance, if I'm investigating a website like PayPal, I can decide to search on Google the word 'paypal review' and Google will show me a list of reviews written by people about their experiences with PayPal in its search engine result page. Searching what nairalander community are saying about a particular website is also very helpful. You can search the keywords 'paypal nairaland' and Google will bring a list of posts on nairaland about PayPal. You can replace the word PayPal in the query with any website or scammer you are investigating.

Identifying unknown numbers with Truecaller

Truecaller can be a very useful tools for identifying the name of the owner of a particular number. Though, the names given by Truecaller might be incorrect at times, it's usually right in some cases. If you have Truecaller installed on your Android device, you can easily copy the number and Truecaller will identify the name of its owner.

Finding out identity on social media

Search their names on social media like Facebook, Twitter and so on. Search their numbers and any identifiable information about them on these media.

Finding out identity on WhatsApp

Check if their number is on WhatsApp. WhatsApp is a messenger that almost all android users have on their phones. So, there's high chance the person's number is on WhatsApp.

Updated lists of scam websites and proofs from people that have been scammed

Here are the list of scam website roaming around the internet and ripping people of their hard earned money. The list will be updated to include newly discovered scammers.

Paxtradings (paxtradings.com)

A very dangerous website that seems so genuine while in fact, the master mind behind this evil project is a scammer scamming people of gift cards and blocking them instantly.

Bitclub Advantage (bitclubadvantage.academy)

A notoriously popular scam cryptocurrency investment of all time, unbelievably promoted by some important figures in the society (like university lecturers. I know of a doctor that confidently support this scam even when it was already glaring that the brain behind this scam was toying with people's intelligence.). I'm also a victim of this scam likewise guilty of promoting it at a point in time. The evil mind behind this project keeps luring people to believing in him that everything is alright while huge chunks of people's hard-earned cash were being repeatedly locked up in series of successive updates (saga Bitclub 2.0, 3.0, Bitclub Advantage Africa and even Bitclub Advantage Africa 2.0! What a great embarrassment and shame brought upon investors).

Beware of these websites

Here is a list of websites that are likely scam but no evidence to back them up. There are high chances of these websites turning out being fraudulent and hence, caution is raised about them. This list will be updated to include any suspicious website and current developments about them.

Cofred capital, Cofredpay or any of whatever category they divided their services into

These are subsidiaries of a company that called itself Cofred limited or so. They claim to have a team of professionals who have years of experience in the banking and finance sector of the economy. The company offers an investment platform under a service called Cofred capital. Their ROI on this investment seems realistic and reasonable. But this company recently did something that qualifies them enough for me to raise people's caution about them. All of a sudden, these people just decided to make a big updates to their existing services in such a way that renders previous users' account invalid, leaving people stranded because they were unable to login in into their accounts anymore. They did these without releasing any message to their customers about the latest development. However, a way around was provided through which customers could import their old investment into their newly created accounts. As creepy as it sounds, the investment balance is only shown after importing it with no idea how to withdraw it yet. Despite all these, the balance shown doesn't even reflect the actual balance expected which means there's possibility of lost funds. As if that wasn't enough, this same company sent an email to their customers notifying them withrawal was suspended until a stipulated date, a decision against the initially agreed terms of contract entered with their customers. What responsible business (cooperate business for that matter) does that? I have once written a post about this company's investment.

UPDATE ON COFRED SCAM!

I have reached the conclusion after warning people about Cofred investment that Cofredpay, Cofred capital, or any of their subsidiary services are scams. They claim to have many years of experience in trading and finance with team of experts and professional, but obviously this is a blatant lie as they have proved their lack of professionalism and expertise in the industry and they are mere charlatans who claim qualities they don't have. The date slated for withdrawal finally came as against their wish but still all attempt to make a withdrawal was giving error. I contacted their customer support, they deleted my ticket from their support website. With this, it's obvious that this company is trying to dare investors and toy with their intelligence

Conclusion

These are some few attributes you should watch out for before jumping into any online business. Though, these criminals have made it very difficult to identify a genuine business as users are now wary of any online business because of fear of being scammed. That's not to say there ain't some trustworthy online individuals or businesses that are genuine. There's no doubt that doing business online with legit people is the sweetest way of business and every business online invoves an element of risk. If you do not risk trusting a potential business partner, then you may not know their legitimacy. So, in short doing business online is a function of risk and trust, therefore your due diligence is required in taking any business decision with unknown people online. If you can't risk your money or find it difficult to trust people, then online business is not for you. A combination of these attributes is required before a reasonable conclusion can be made about the safety of any online business as only one or two of these attributes are not sufficient enough to base your conclusion about them. Have you ever been scammed online before or do you have some methods of investigating scammers identity which have not been discussed in the post? Kindly, share your view and experiences with online scammers in the comment section for others to learn.

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Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the comment writers alone and does not reflect or represent the views of Ayodeji Kolawole.