Popular internet scams to watch out for in 2020

Protect yourself and your personal information at all times on the internet.

Christin Hume on Unsplash
  • The internet is filled with scammers looking to steal your private information.
  • The Better Business Bureau has shared important information on the scams that are currently trending and ways that internet users can avoid them.
  • Every internet user should also consider investing in a VPN like Private Internet Access for added safety and security.

If we've said it once, we've said it a thousand times: the internet is not a safe place. As an educational tool and social connector it is amazing, but for all the cute animals and funny memes, there are also scams lurking around every corner. If you're on the grid, you should know how to protect yourself and your information. One way to do that is with a VPN.

VPNs (virtual private networks) like Private Internet Access allow users to mask their IP address and navigate the internet anonymously. When you use a VPN, websites are blocked from tracking your browsing habits, monitoring activity, or even seeing where you are connecting to the internet from. Private Internet Access also comes with an encryption service that defends against monitoring and a firewall that blocks dangerous connections. If you're in a situation where your internet provider or region has certain websites blocked, a VPN can break through those barriers and welcome you to censorship-free browsing.

You should also be able to spot threats on your own. To help, here are a few scams that are currently trending online.

Kobe Bryant memorabilia

Kobe Bryant

Photo: Michael Wa on Flickr / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Following his untimely death in a helicopter accident in California on January 26, 2020, the Better Business Bureau issued a warning for fans of NBA icon Kobe Bryant to not "let their mourning cloud their judgment." The BBB wrote that high-profile celebrity deaths often result in phishing scams, sales of fake memorabilia, and the use of clickbait to exploit people and steal their information. The bureau suggests checking the sender's email address before clicking on anything and hovering over all links first to see where they lead. When possible, internet users should do some homework before buying items and sharing account details.

Internet puppies

group of cute puppies

Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

Particularly around the holidays but also all year round, cute animals are an easy way for scammers to trick people into making themselves vulnerable. The BBB has seen a 37% increase in consumer complaints about puppy scams since 2017, with 16,000 complaints coming in the last three years. The organization says that the figure is likely to be much higher but, according to the Federal Trade Commission, only 10% of victims report crimes. An estimated 60% of those who reported scams never received the pets they purchased.

Census takers

boy and girl looking at a clipboard

Photo: Rachel on Unsplash

2020 is the year of the census, a nationwide headcount that happens once every 10 years. While people should definitely be wary of scammers knocking on their front doors, the BBB says that those same precautions need to be exercised online. Be suspicious of anonymous/generic emails, never share your social security number or agree to transfer money, and make sure that if you are directed to a website that it has the official census.gov web address.

Gym memberships and weight-loss supplements

assorted pills and capsules

Photo: freestocks.org on Unsplash

A new year means that a lot of people are considering ways to be healthier or more active. Scammers are aware of this and will use gym memberships, supplements, and other fake offers to capitalize on the trend. The Better Business Bureau's tips for avoiding scams are to research companies before signing up, to thoroughly read the terms of agreement and all the fine print, and to not hesitate to call your credit card company if you suspect you have been the victim of a free-trial scam.

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