Gary Hall

The Biggest Online Scams of 2015

Protect yourself and your identity


With the rise of Internet use and Internet-ready devices, users need to be more alert than ever in order to protect themselves from online scams. In 2015, one of the biggest concerns will be ransomware scams, which can encrypt and freeze your electronic devices. Other major online scams to be aware of will include those relating to the new credit card chips, Apple Pay credit card fraud and the increasing number of vacation rental payment scams. Instead of becoming an online scam victim, take steps to increase your Internet safety. Visit to find out what personal details about you are online and have them removed for your protection. Online scams are growing in prevalence as an increasing number of people rely on the Internet for everything from banking to social media. Although a number of identity thefts happen due to offline activity like stolen credit card applications, a significant portion of identity theft also takes place as a direct result of online scams. A scam can trick you into giving away your personal information, which then allows hackers to use that information for things like credit cards, home loans or even accessing your tax refunds. By getting to know some of the biggest online scams of 2015, you can be in a better position to protect yourself and your identity.

Ransomware Scams

One of the fastest-growing online scams is the use of ransomware. This type of hack can actually hold your computer, phone or tablet ransom, freezing up all of the functions and preventing you from using it until you have paid a fee. This scam is one that many people fall for because it looks as it if comes from the FBI or another government or security agency. Often, the ransomware will claim that the user of the computer has done something illegal online such as downloading child pornography, researching something treasonous or watching films or television shows illegally. It is important to note that no government agency does this, and any computer program that encrypts and freezes your device is absolutely a scam. Rather than inputting your bank information to pay the fine, which could result in additional financial loss in the future once the hackers have your details, take it to your local computer repair shop instead.

An even better way to handle ransomware scams is to prevent them from being a problem in the first place. Ransomware can only encrypt files if you click on the link sent to you, so take care not so click on anything suspicious. You can also consider installing a privacy guard for your browser, which is a cyber-security essential in the digital age.

Credit Card Chip Scams

In Asia, Europe and much of the world, credit cards come with small chips that require the use of a PIN when you pay with them. In the United States, credit cards have not traditionally had this chip, relying instead on the magnetic stripe on the back. In 2015, however, many banks are offering their customers new credit and debit cards with chips as a way to increase overall banking security and provide greater payment options to international travelers. The inclusion of the chip is generally seen as a positive thing, but the downside might be that many scammers take advantage of this transition to send false information to unsuspecting individuals. The scam will typically involve an email claiming to be from your bank, talking about the new chip cards and requesting that you send back details about your account. Banks never ask for this information via email, so always assume it is a scam and avoid links as well as any responses.

Apple Pay and Other Mobile Payment Scams

Apple Pay was hailed by many as the ultimate way to beef up credit card security when shopping in person or online, but it turns out that it may be helping fraudsters commit crimes. With stolen credit card information like name, address and card number, thieves can open up an Apple Pay account on their phones and use the accounts to pay for items they purchase. Rather than having to create a physical fake credit card, it is as simple as downloading a smartphone application.

With the rising potential of mobile payment scams, it is more important than ever to keep your personal banking details secure. Shred documents like financial statements that might contact your account numbers in full, and put a hold on your mail when you’re on vacation so that letters from your bank aren’t sitting in your mailbox for days unattended.

Online Vacation Rental Scams

An increasingly popular online scam is one that preys on those who are searching for cheap deals for their upcoming vacations. These scams can look absolutely convincing, and in many cases, the scammers have created beautiful websites for their fake hotel or resort properties using stunning, recent photographs. Unfortunately, these are often stolen photographs from legitimate properties. Rather than skipping your vacation this year to avoid falling for a scam, just be wary of how the rental property or resort asks you to pay for your stay. If they are happy for you to pay when you arrive, it is likely safe. If you can pay with a credit card, it may also be legitimate. The warning signs are when accommodation deals seem too good to be true and ask you to pay for your stay in advance via Western Union or MoneyGram.

Your online protection is important, and knowing about the biggest online scams of 2015 can be key in your fight for Internet safety and against identity theft. To better guard your personal information online, head to

Resources: How to Safely Shop Online and Prevent Your Identity From Being Stolen Bamboozled: 5 Scams to Watch For in 2015

Federal Trade Commission: Scam Alerts The Big Scams & Security Threats to Watch Out for in 2015

Cult of Mac: Apple Pay Actually Makes It Really Easy to Commit Credit Card Fraud

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