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The Internet is a source of endless possibilities. Here we can get almost all the information we need. But that’s not the end of the story. We use the Internet to communicate with each other, conduct banking transactions, do the accounting for our own business, back up data in a “cloud”, shop online, order free samples and make unbeatable “deals”.
Some of it actually benefits us and is harmless. However, much of it turns out to be a clumsy scam upon closer inspection. No matter how often you hear warnings about scams on the Internet, people fall for them again and again.
Children are particularly at risk of becoming victims of Internet fraud. They are often not yet able to assess the situation properly and are more naive than some adults. That’s why we’ve put together a little crash course in Internet fraud for you. Here you can read about the most common forms of Internet fraud. You’ll also learn how you can best protect yourself.
Dangerous Subscription Traps
Many Internet portals offer free services. Downloads, templates, recipes, apps and programs are available “for free”. However, numerous pitfalls are hidden in the general terms and conditions of the sites or in the fine print. Only those who read very carefully will find out that these are actually paid services that, in the worst case, lead to a binding subscription.
Then you get an invoice that you are supposed to pay within a short time. Sometimes you don’t even know what the bill is for, because you didn’t expect to enter into a paid contract. After all, you only wanted to use the “free” services on the homepage.
Therefore, remember that there is rarely anything for free. To be more precise, except for sweepstakes and product samples, there is almost never anything for free on the Internet. And if someone claims that a service or thing is “completely free”, then that is usually a lie. Speaking of sweepstakes, you have to be careful here, too. It is not uncommon for unexpected costs to arise when you participate in sweepstakes. So please always read the fine print!
Basically, you should be suspicious if data such as your address is requested for a free service. In this case, you should check again to see if there are any hidden costs and if you are not billed.
What can you do if you have fallen into the subscription trap?
Well, yes. First of all, don’t be intimidated by bills. If your parents have legal protection insurance, then you should take the letter (invoice) to a lawyer and seek his advice. In this case, this is actually (and not only supposedly) free of charge for you. If you do not have legal protection insurance, then contact the consumer protection or the Chamber of Labor. They usually have up-to-date information about fraud cases on the Internet and can help. This way you can find out whether you really have to pay the bill or not.
Consumer protection, lawyers and the Chamber of Labor can also provide you with sample letters for withdrawing from online offers that you never actually wanted to use. The Consumer Protection Act provides that you can withdraw from such contracts within a certain period of time. The purpose of this is to protect you from unwanted contracts that you have entered into without realizing it.
How to recognize subscription traps.
Because no one has anything to give away on the Internet, you should always take a critical look at every homepage and every offer. This is especially true for sweepstakes that direct you to external sites and only serve to attract victims for rip-offs.
As soon as you are confronted with keywords such as free, free of charge or free of charge, you should pay attention. Pay attention to contract information in the fine print. Dubious websites usually do not give an exact description of what services they offer. This should also make you suspicious.
With certain protection programs, you can have warning messages displayed when you are on a rip-off site. For example, you can use WOT (Web of Trust) or Computer Bild rip-off protection to be on the safe side.
Data Theft On The Net
Data theft on the net lurks around every corner. Particularly in sweepstakes, you run the risk of revealing not only your identity, but also your account information.
In Facebook, for example, there is the scam that you receive a request from supposed friends. The Facebook name is only slightly different from the real one. The scammers behind this are those who have stolen the identity of some users, so to speak. They send messages in which they ask their friends to go to a certain link.
After a while, the user is asked to disclose some data because he or she has won a lottery. This is where the real data theft begins. Be aware that this is already a criminal act, which is actually not Okay. Of course, it will be even worse if you lose your money by disclosing your data.
Therefore, please never respond to promises like “You won! Collect your winnings now!” or similar.
With portals like Ebay and also with banks, there are also imitators who only have scams in mind. Whenever you are supposedly asked by Ebay to go to an external website that has nothing to do with Ebay, please refrain from doing so. Also, be aware that reputable companies like Ebay refrain from asking customers to share their login information! You will never receive mails from Ebay, your bank or any other recognized portal asking you to disclose your username and password.
If you do receive such a mail, you can be sure that it is a scam. Please report it immediately to the company that the scammer claims to be. You can take a screenshot of the mail by pressing the “Print” key on your keyboard. Save this screenshot and send it to the company you want to report the scam to. After that, delete the scammer’s mail or at least move it to the trash and pay no further attention to it. You can warn your friends on Facebook and the like not to respond to this mail.
Fake Invoices And Reminders
It is quite possible that you receive invoices by mail for things or services that you have never purchased or claimed. Sometimes you even get reminders from a supposed lawyer or a dubious collection agency. These lawyers and bureaus work closely with the criminals who want to get their hands on your money.
Dangerous is not only the scam itself, but the associated spyware or virus attack. It is not uncommon to be asked to open a file in the attachment of the mail in order to find out more details. This file contains malicious software that infects your PC and collects valuable data from you.
If a payment request seems strange to you, do not pay anything! Instead, contact the consumer protection agency at the Chamber of Labor or do some research on the Internet about the company that sent you the invoice.
You must not believe everything you are told in an e-mail. Call the company and consult other agencies if you have doubts. Do not open unknown attachments and do not pay attention to such emails. Delete them instead of worrying about them. Also, do not reply to the email, as this will only confirm to the sender that your email address is still active. If you do, you might be bombarded with even more fraudulent emails.
Enter the subject of the email into a search engine and see if there are any warnings about the “company” in question and reports about its criminal activities.
You have already transferred money, but now you are sure that it is not actually due to the recipient? Then please contact the police to file a complaint. Most banks allow you to cancel transactions within a certain period of time. Contact your bank advisor to get your money back.
Dangers Of Online Shopping
Anyone with the necessary knowledge and a little technical know-how can open an online store on the Internet. All you have to do is register a domain (that’s the Internet address) and set up the store. Whether one actually sells something or is engaged in criminal activities is not checked for the time being.
That is why it is important to unmask so-called fake stores. Please do not buy from any online store just because you have found an unbeatable offer that you do not want to miss!
Take a closer look and orientate yourself by the following hints:
Check the imprint to see who the seller is. Every homepage must have an imprint if something is sold there. If you don’t find an imprint or if there are no details like address and operator, then you better don’t order from this store.
A homepage that is full of spelling mistakes, has a cheap looking layout or is even technically faulty (page not accessible,…) is possibly not serious.
Do not accept payment in advance. It is best to pay as soon as you receive the goods (“on account”).
Read the general terms and conditions in the online store (also called AGB). There MUST be something about your legal right of withdrawal. In addition, you will find details about shipping and payment terms and the associated costs.
ALWAYS buy branded goods directly from the manufacturer or a licensed store! More detailed information about reputable dealers can be obtained from the manufacturer itself.
It is best to buy only within the EU. Here it is easier for you to get your rights. Do not rely on the ending of the domain (.de, .at etc.). Everyone can register a domain with the ending he likes. It says nothing about where the company is located.
It is better to buy from a dealer with whom you have already had good experiences. Large portals such as Ebay or Amazon, for example, make it a point to have only reputable vendors in their program. You can also fall back on this.
Counterfeit Branded Goods And False Product Descriptions
Most recently in the spring of 2015, there were fake Ray Ban sunglasses for sale on the Internet. These branded products are usually very expensive. Nevertheless, you could buy them at the suspiciously low price on some websites. To be more precise, the fakes cost around 85% less than the original product.
However, the fakes were not sold as counterfeit glasses (which, by the way, is also prohibited), but as originals. In fact, however, they were cheap goods that were not made by Ray Ban.
Especially in this case, the Internet fraud can be not only annoying, but dangerous. After all, you don’t know whether the lenses in the glasses are now inferior or actually offer as good UV protection as the original.
In the case described above, these were websites that made a good, reputable impression. Such cases are not uncommon.
If you value getting tested branded goods for your money, check the manufacturer’s website to see where you can order the goods or store at a reputable store near you.
There are criminals who claim false facts via e-mail. They are sometimes even so brazen as to take the logo of a bank or another company and send out mails in their name. Often, they even construct a homepage that looks very similar to the original. In these mails, you are usually asked to update your data, change a password or something similar. If criminals get hold of important access data in this way, this is also called Phishing. This term is a combination of the English word “fishing” and the German word “Passwort”. The fraudsters “fish” for your password by pretending to be a bank or a company.
In the worst case, if you fall for it, all your money is gone. This is why banks usually send out regular info e-mails in online banking, warning you about current phishing attacks. Please always read this information to be up to date.
This is the only way you can protect yourself from phishing and avoid a big financial loss. Of course, you could also do without online banking if you want. This way, the danger of bank account phishing is eliminated for you.
Worksheet For The Text
1) Explain the term phishing.
2) Why should you be careful when buying branded goods on the Internet?
3) What can you do if you get a bill that seems strange? Is there any way to get your money back if you have already deposited it?