Despite bringing unprecedented disruption to the world, the coronavirus pandemic has also brought out the best in humanity, with charity initiatives, stories of incredible achievements and selfless acts flooding the news agenda.

But a pandemic like this also presents fraudsters with an opportunity to capitalise on people’s goodwill and prey on the most vulnerable.

With scams and cyberattacks on the rise over the last two months, it has never been more important to be vigilant for online scams to avoid falling into traps that in hindsight might seem obvious, but at the time can appear genuine.

Stelios Kounou, Founder and CEO of competition site Raffall.com, reveals five ways to spot an online scam…

Does it seem too good to be true?

Be careful when competitions, giveaways and prizes seem too good to be true. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Beware of offers for free products, claims that you’ve won a contest you did not enter, or get-rich-quick schemes.

For example, winning a SpaceX flight with Elon Musk simply by filling out an online questionnaire probably isn’t going to happen! Use common sense in these situations.

Fake charities or good causes

Do your homework when it comes to donations. Given the push to give to charities in these difficult times, fraudsters are taking advantage of consumers by falsely selling coronavirus-related products or setting up fake fundraising initiatives.

Avoid sending money to people you don’t know or entities you’ve never heard of and do your homework on their website to ensure its legitimacy.

Who is the hosting the competition and what are their photos like?

If someone is offering a prize in exchange for your money, do their photos and prize images look genuine or do they look like stock images that have just been downloaded from Google? If that’s the case, it could quite possibly be a scam.

Genuine hosts will be proud to associate themselves with a genuine competition and would usually include real images that only they have access to.

Competitions that contain videos of the prizes or contain real people often help when it comes to working out whether a competition is trustworthy or not as it improves visibility and gives you the sense that you are buying into a real person rather than a faceless one.

Dangerous ads

Scammers are using ads that pop up and ask for personal information or sell fake products in an attempt to steal personal data, install malware or access your money.

One way of protecting yourself against these is to install an ad blocker on your internet browser, which will prevent it from downloading a dangerous ad that’s seeking to obtain your personal information.

If you do receive an unexpected pop-up asking you to click through or enter your details, don’t! In addition, make sure your phones/computers/tablets are updated with suitable antivirus software.

As well as protecting your device from threats, the software will warn you if you’re visiting a site that’s been reported for phishing or contains malware.

Fake notifications from PayPal stating that you’ve been paid or asking you to pay someone

If you have sold something or host competitions online, fraudsters often try to trick you into thinking you’ve received a payment for an order with a fake “You’ve received a payment” notification.

If you’re a seller, before you ship anything, check your PayPal account and, if you’ve been paid, you’ll always see the payment in your PayPal account.

You may also receive a message claiming “You have been paid too much” which is a classic trick by fraudsters to convince you that you’ve been paid more than you were owed.


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