Scams have been around since the very first days of mankind, and they’re going to be here until the very last. They’re here to stay, and in a weird way a part of life.
With technology changing at blindingly fast speeds, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to spot them and avoid causing often permanent damage.
I want to take a few minutes out of my usual marketing writing to outline a few of the more modern scams we’ve seen over the past 12-48 months, as well as some to look out for in the future.
What’s important to remember here is that these scams NEED you, us, to fall for them in order for them to work and be populated across the inter-webs. With just a bit of awareness, collectively we can do our part to slow the spread of these scams.
If you have someone in your family who’s taken part in a few of these, be sure to share this with them and set the record straight! (ESPECIALLY the Facebook ones bellow!)
I’ve divided this article into “methods of contact” for easy reference later.
1 – Email
Most email scams are called phishing scams because they’re trying to trick you into divulging your log-in credentials or some form of confidential information by appearing legitimate. Maybe it’s a job offer asking you to confirm your home address, or your bank asking you to re-enter your password, or a lost lover you’ve never met desperately in need of a money transfer.
By now, I hope everyone already knows to ignore any emails from the prince of Nigeria. And no, someone doesn’t happen to have millions of dollars they’d like to share with you.
But surprisingly, there are some sneaky emails that still look realistic. I frequently get some from banks – both from banks I have accounts with and banks I don’t, as well as emails from Paypal, Amazon, Ebay, the government, job offers and lately a lot saying I have a direct deposit available.
Please, for the the love of everything you’re trying to protect, don’t click any links in these emails. If you have ANY doubt about the validity of an email, feel free to just delete it and if it’s real they’ll call you.
If, for whatever reason, you feel an email may possibly be legitimate, you can always call the company yourself and inquire. BUT, don’t use any phone numbers found in that email, instead head to your favourite search engine, find the company in questions website, locate their contact info and call them direct.
Another one I’ve seen is the annoying junk email with the subject line something like this “RE:Shipping info” or anything starting with “RE:”, implying it’s a reply to an email YOU sent them. It’s not. It’s a scam. If you didn’t send an email with that subject line, just delete it and save yourself the headache. Most major companies will tell you flat out that they will never ask for sensitive info through email.
And please, please, please stop forwarding chain emails.
2 – Facebook
Lately, Facebook has seen a significant increase in scammers – and it’s working flawlessly because they’ve stepped up their game and started using human nature against us. Unlike email where they’re mostly focusing on two things – appearing real and hoping you’re a sucker – online they’re employing social proof, confrontation, the desire to tell someone else they’re wrong and prove you’re awesomeness, our desire to have friends, visual stimulation, etc.
2.1 – Fake Friend Request
For example, people RARELY delete their Facebook profile and then make a new one, so if you get a friend request from someone who was already your friends, it’s propably not real.
Or, if you get a friend request from someone you don’t know yet dang they look so attractive in their profile picture that you simply MUST be their friend, people, it’s a scam.
Here’s a simple way to tell if the friend request is real: check out their profile! If the profile has only been created a few days or months ago, it’s probably fake. Or if they only have a handful of friends, it’s probably fake. Or if they have a very short Facebook history, it’s probably fake. Or if they don’t have any friends in common with you, it’s probably fake. (But don’t be fooled, there may be a handful of friends in common, usually other suckers who fell for it!).
See this girl? She’s fake, sorry fellas.
2.2- Fake Contest
I see this one ALL THE TIME from, unfortunately, friends of mine. You know the type, a surreal prize is up for grabs if you simply like the post and page, comment, share, etc. This is called farming – and it’s a scam.
But wait, isn’t that marketing? Yes. If it’s coming from a local company you KNOW – and that’s exaclty why the scams work so good, because legitimate companies also use this.
If the contest is coming from someone in your community, a store you’ve visited or a place down the street, it’s probably legitimate. But if it’s some page you’ve never heard of giving away some fancy prize, it’s a scam.
Some of the common ones are…
The list goes on, I see these being shared every single day… 🙁
Just the other day, I saw a couple friends going nuts sharing a picture of Ellen DeGeneres holding a gift box with the caption saying she was giving away a bunch of prizes for Christmas… This is a scammer utilising the fact that the REAL Ellen really is doing a Christmas giveaway – but this wasn’t it. If the person took 2 seconds to look at the page hosting this picture they would have realised the page promoting the contest had nothing to do with her.
Okay, so it’s a scam, whats the harm in sharing? I mean, what if I really do win that million dollar RV? It’s simple, it’s a process called “Like Farming”. A scammer opens up a new Facebook page, usually pretending to be endorsed by a major brand, or about something we all dream of having like a fancy car, and they promote a bunch of incredible contest with incredible prizes. Only thing is, there isn’t any prize. And once the page has gathered 100K fans or so, they turn around and sell the page to data agencies who then turn around and sell it to major brands so they can market to you, adding to the cycle. A page of 100K fans consistently sells for about a thousand bucks, and this happens every day, day after day. And the worst part, the more times your information gets sold, the more spam you receive.
Side Note: One of the quickest ways to see if a Facebook page seemingly from a major brand is legitimate is to look for the blue “verified” check mark. Most major brands have these.
This one above is a scammer trying to pass off as Disney.
This IS Disney. Notice the blue circled check mark.
2.3. – Quiz and Intellectual Challenges
Other examples data mining scams include Facebook quiz’s like “which Disney character are YOU?” or the most annoying “which water bucket will fill first”. These are designed to mess with your psychology in a variety of ways, like telling all the other people who answered the wrong bucket that they are idiots and you are truly the superior genius, so you don’t realise that the moment you engaged with that post you’ve just opened up the door to scammers and let them into your humble abode.
A true genius wouldn’t be falling for Facebook scams.
2.4 – Vacation Check-Ins or Countdowns.
This one isn’t really a scam, but I wanted to address it for your own good…
Have you ever walked pass someone on the street without even saying hello yet they are on your Facebook friends list? Odds are very good that you have – and that’s okay. The point is that not everyone on your friends list is TRULY your friend, so keep that in mind when posting about travel plans.
Listen, I’m happy that you’re going on a holiday, you deserve it!
But if you’re counting down the days before you leave for your big trip, and check in when you arrive, don’t be surprised if you get home to find your place ransacked. You’re literally broadcasting that you won’t be home!
I know, you want to brag about your trip and show off your sexy beach photo’s, and that’s great, but do so AFTER you’ve returned.
3 – Messenger
This one is newer, but I’ve seen it used quite a bit already and it’s making good headway. It’s simple, you get a message from a friend through messenger, typically something like this.. “OMG ALAIN BLAIS IS THIS YOU?” with a link.
For heavens sake, don’t click that link!
First off, friends almost NEVER send you a a message addressing you with your full name. Second, it takes two seconds to reply back with “did you just send me a link or is that scam?” and find out what the deal is. Or better yet, ignore it. If it’s important, the next time they run into you they’ll ask why you ignored their message, which is better than downloading a virus on your phone that steals all your saved passwords – you know, like your banking info.
4 – Phone Calls
Although many of us ignore strange calls these days, there are some sneaky ones that still get through. A new one I’ve seen is a call that looks to come from the government or local law enforcement. They usually say you owe money to the government, or they made a mistake and need to confirm your address and date of birth, or that you missed jury duty and you now have to pay a fine. Don’t fall for these. Be wary of anyone claiming to be a government agent or asking for money over the phone. And of course, there are some of the scarier ones out there, like a ransom call or supposed call from a lost loved one. Be smart, contact the person in question if necessary, and don’t divulge anything right out of the gate!
Just say no is for more than just drugs. Say no to giving out any personal info.
5 – Smishing
Isn’t that a funny word. It’s a a phishing scam done through SMS where your phone “bings” and you think you’ve got a new message from a sexy Tinder connection, but it turns out it’s your phone saying there’s a problem and you need to re-enter your banking information, or some other private information.
Don’t click strange links, and don’t enter information outside the context of actions you were already trying to do. Don’t be a smishing sucker.
But Don’t Worry – The World Isn’t All Bad
I know, reading this can be a bit overwhelming and perhaps make you feel like living under a rock isn’t such a bad idea, but it’s really not that bad – you just have to be smart.
It can be a crazy world out there, but with a bit of common sense it’s an incredibly amazing time to be alive, technology and all.
As our dependency and enjoyment of technology increases, we should put special care into ensuring that our BS Detector stays sharp and our intuition stays fresh. If it feels too good to be true, it probably is, if something feels off, it probably is.
The only downside of deleting a scam that’s actually important is that they’ll have to contact you again, and hopefully with a better approach.
Here are a few simple things you can do avoid falling for a scam:
- Do NOT click on links or attachments
- Read the entire message entirely, keeping an eye out for obvious scam signs such as obvious misspellings, poor English, general greetings, etc.
- Be wary of urgent instructions like “send $ today or account will be closed”
- Hover your mouse over a URL (without clicking it) and it’ll show the destination, see if it matches what it claims to be.
- Invest in a strong anti-virus and run it often.
- Delete any emails, text, or messages that appear odd.
- Don’t trust messages from anyone – especially friends – that sound odd, or don’t write the way they usually do. If you’re best friend in the world has never sent you a message that starts with “OMG FULL NAME EMOJI EMOJI EMOJI” than it’s probably not them.
- Don’t fall for pop-ups claiming security issues, close them and scan your computer for malware.
And if you’re up for a bit of fun, you can always toy around with scammers, like this guy did:
To your success,
PS – I’m not an internet security pro or scam expert, and I’m not claiming to be. I simply through this together to hopefully raise a bit of awareness on some of the newer scams making their rounds these days and hope it helps!
Alain (Al) Blais
CEO of RYS Group, Alain Blais is an entrepreneur, published author, family man and competitive dirt bike racer. He’s deeply passionate about growing businesses and excels in marketing and promotion. Alain regularly consults for small to medium sized businesses, start ups and independent sales professionals. Al believes in constant and never ending improvement and is always seeking to optimize and improve his current skills, systems and businesses as well as seek out new opportunities and ventures. For consulting, partnerships and speaking engagements, you can contact Alain at firstname.lastname@example.org
Head Marketing Maestro at RYS Marketing Agency
1191 Lansing Ave, Unit 1
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
Mobile (Voicemail): 705.662.0836
“Marketing is the difference between mediocrity and millions” – Jay Abraham
“The most dependable and consistent way to generate wealth is to turn good marketing into profit.” – Alain Blais