In 2008, I received an email from Nokia Company based in the United Kingdom saying that I had won 450 million pounds as the best Nokia customer of the year and that I was required to provide my personal details to claim the prize. Later, I received another email from a bank in Nigeria saying that they had sent me a debit card containing 10 million US dollars since a millionaire who had recently died had mentioned my name in his will. Then there were emails from strangers requesting me to be a money mule for them. But no matter how much they tried to convince me, I could not be impressed by their unbelievable promises. I knew that all such emails and messages are part of the strategies adopted by scammers to lure and deceive people across the globe.
The advent of internet and social networking sites has made it easier for the scammers to reach out to their victims. There is no doubt that the internet today is infested with scammers who are constantly honing their craft to ensnare innocent people and rob them of their hard-earned money. Many Bhutanese have also fallen prey to such scams in the past. I have met people who had even taken loans to pay for the promised US Green Card only to be ignored after making the payment. And there were people who had paid for the bank transfer charges to claim their lottery prizes which they never got.
In such a world of advanced computer technology, we must understand that we can be exposed to internet scams at any time if we are not careful with what we do online. The first and foremost thing we should keep in mind is that we should never share our personal information and bank details to strangers no matter how convincing their requests may sound. Giving away such information to scammers exposes you to the risks of getting robbed of your savings in the bank. The scammers can also make money by selling your personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses to the third party companies which will in turn flood your inboxes with unnecessary marketing advertisements.
But when a suspicious email appears in your inbox, how can you be sure that it is an internet scam? When I received that email from Nokia Company in 2008, I immediately checked the sender’s email address. I instantly became suspicious when I found out that it was a Hotmail account. Nokia has its own webmail service and if the email was genuine, it should have been from that webmail. So the most important way to spot a scam is to see if the sender’s email has originated from the webmail of the companies/organizations he or she claims to represent. If the email has come from Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or other free email services, there is a high possibility that it could be a scam.
Another prominent feature of internet scams is that they usually involve huge sums of money which people may not even believe. If you receive messages and emails saying you have won millions of dollars or pounds in a lottery or sweepstakes for which you had not even bought the ticket, you must understand that you are being targeted by scammers. You must never respond to any of such messages.
In order to keep the potential scammers at bay, we should also be vigilant on social media such as Facebook, WeChat, WhatsApp and other social platforms. When we get friend-requests from strangers, we must carefully study the profile of the person, timeline updates and friends’ list. If there is anything suspicious about the person, it would be safer to ignore the request. That’s what I usually do on Facebook. The scammers may think they are smart, but we should be smarter to know our boundaries well so that we cannot be scammed easily.