The internet has made life better in many ways but it has also made it easier for criminals to target unsuspecting people and made it much harder for the authorities to do anything about it. Here are just some of the scams that frequently do the rounds.
The eir scam: A call comes to the target's landline and purports to be from eir or sometimes "Eircom". Targets are warned their broadband will be cut off within 24 hours unless they act and to press the number one on their handset to continue. People are then persuaded to divulge personal and/or financial information or to click on a web link to download software that may compromise the customer's computer. The scam has absolutely nothing to do with eir – obviously – and it could be any company the scam artists pretend to be from. The key thing is to never disclose any information and never visit web pages provided by a cold caller.
The money lending scam: Moneylending websites which claim to offer quick access to cash to applicants who have struggled to borrow money from more legitimate sources are completely bogus and prey on the most vulnerable people. Such sites promise loans once applicants submit some pretty basic personal details. After, they get a call confirming their loan application has been approved but then an "advance fee" is sought. It is not enormous. But once it is paid, the offer of the loan disappears.
The Netflix scam: A scam targeting Netflix users frequently does the rounds. The emails claim to be from the streaming company and they ask for updated payment details. The email uses fake Netflix branding to fool customers and is more plausible than many phishing scams as it replicates messages the company sends out when credit cards or debit cards used to pay the monthly fee have expired. The email attempts to redirect customers to a fake website dressed up to look like a genuine Netflix page and users are asked to update payment details because of problems processing their cards.
The blackmail scam: This appeared last year and saw scammers contacting millions of people worldwide with emails containing details of actual passwords belonging to the targets. The criminals use the fact that they know a "secret" password to give their correspondence credibility and they claim they have infected the victim's computer with a virus, allowing them to record what the person watches online. The email suggests that a tape of the victim watching pornography exists and will be widely distributed unless bitcoin is transferred immediately.
The Wangiri scam: This sees scammers leaving missed calls from mysterious numbers on mobile phones. When calls are returned they are diverted to premium rate numbers overseas – to the victim's cost.
The phishing scam: Any email from a bank, the National Lottery, Revenue or Ebay, or almost any other company you can thing of, asking for key details, such as passwords or bank account numbers, so they can update accounts with enhanced security features or send money, are to be treated with extreme caution. No reputable organisation will ever contact anyone in such a way.
The 419 scam: "Hello My DEAR perSon. My name Mortin Atowomba and my housbond died directer of Bank of Bnin with have urgent, secret of business deal just for you. Diamons in case. For you. Call me. Help me get money out of my country. All the millions for you. Good person." These mad emails must work on some people, otherwise we wouldn't still be getting them.
The transaction scam: All sites from car sales sites to accommodation sites to big online auction houses attract scammers hoping to catch people out. They encourage people to leave the well-known platforms so business can be conducted one to one. They use popular money transfer services to "facilitate payment". If anyone other than people you are actually related to or who you have known since you were five asks you to transfer money to them via unusual channels, think long and hard about it. And then say no.