Typos. At best, they are an embarreeesmint!
At worst, making a typo when you enter a website name into your browser, may just get you scammed. It’s called a typo-squatting scam. A recent report stated that more than 12 million web users have fallen victim to the typo-squatting scam in the first 3 months of 2018.
Here’s the scam: Perpetrators set up fake web addresses that closely resemble legitimate addresses but the address contains common typos such as .cm versus .com. If you land on one of those typo sites, you may just get nailed with viruses and malware. The site may look so much like the real one that you’ll be fooled into providing personal data, or look so much like the real site, that instead of buying the product you intended, you’ll be purchasing knock-off or imitation products.
Limit your risk by:
- Double-check the web address. Check your spelling in the website before you hit enter (or return). Taking the time to do so can save you the heartache of having your identity stolen or prevent you from purchasing counterfeit products at inflated prices. Those of you that type so fast and assume you are 100% accurate are good prey. *(Highschoolers, I’m talking to you!)
2. Bookmark favorite websites. Once you are positive that the address you entered is correct, bookmark it. Doing this will save you from proofreading each web address and is particularly worthwhile for websites that have access to your financial information.
3. Use a search engine. If you are not sure what the address is for a certain site, use a search engine like Google or Bing. When you are searching for the website, be sure not to include .com in your search.
4. Do not click on links found in social media posts or your feed. Doing so, often leads to typo-squatters. Instead of clicking on a link, open another tab, use your search engine to find the company, then look for those sunglasses or fancy dress that was advertised.
5. Check and recheck the URL. Websites often “redirect” to other pages on the web. Make a habit of checking the URL/website address while you are on the page. Think of it like you are checking your rear view mirror while you are driving to make sure no one is coming up behind you.
If you choose to ignore point #4, at least look for red flags in the web address:
- A .com ending for a government website
- Extra text following a .com
- A misspelling of the company’s name
- Typos in the domain (.com, .gov, .org, etc.) — such as the web address ending with .cm instead of .com
Spotting fake websites is not always easy. If you realize you have entered one of your passwords on a typo-squatter’s site, change your password immediately. Once you secure your accounts, file a complaint with the FTC .
SCAMMERS LOVE SECRETS
Scammers do love a secret, and Secret Shopping Scams are right up their alley! An attendee at one of our Stand Up Against Fraud seminars showed us a letter and accompanying money order he received from Walmart. The letter was soliciting him to be a secret shopper. (See the photo) Luckily the Denver resident checked with us before he fell for the scam. The scam starts with a letter congratulating the recipient on becoming a secret shopper for Walmart and provides instructions for the assignment. The letter comes with a legit-looking Postal Money Order with an amount, in this case, $990. As the recipient, you are instructed to deposit the $990 money to your own bank account, then utilize $10 of the (fake) check to test Walmart’s money transfer services. Then, with the remaining $980, you ‘keep’ $160 and the remaining
$820 should be sent to Texas for charity work through Walmart.
EASY MONEY RIGHT? WRONG!
First and foremost, Walmart does not have a secret shopper program. Depositing a check and seeing it as available in your bank account can be misleading. The most important thing to know is that a check can bounce after you deposit it – even if your bank allows you to withdraw cash from that deposit.
Secret Shopper Scam Tips:
- Do your research. The web will reveal if this is a scam.
- If you get a solicitation via email, be advised that this is likely not a legitimate website. To check if the website is legitimate, hover over the URL to make sure that the web address is correct for the company that the email is coming from.
- Look for poor grammar and/or typos in the company’s letter or email.
- In the case shown in the photo, there were typos and grammar mistakes throughout the solicitation letter. The following is just one example:
“In case you were asked if you know the receiver, Simply tell them Yes. Ignore any further questions asked for you to get accurate result.”
- Never wire money to someone you don’t know. Wiring money is the same as sending cash. Once you wire it, you may never get it back.
- Never agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know. If the check turns out to be fake, it will eventually bounce; since you are responsible for any deposited checks to your account, you will owe the bank the money you withdrew.
- Never give out your personal or financial information without knowing exactly what company will be receiving the information. Guard your personal information, and treat it as if it were cash. Refrain from entering your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers online or by phone to someone who gets in touch with you.
There are legitimate secret shopper businesses, but you don’t have to pay to get into the mystery shopper business.