Scams and scamming romance scamming is probably one of the best-known scams on the internet. However, there are many other methods criminals use on the Internet to defraud people of their finances.

In this guide, the Herfurtner law firm provides you with a detailed list and description of the most common scams on the World Wide Web. In addition, we give you practical tips on how to recognise a fraud attempt and protect yourself.

Topics in our legal advice

Have you become a victim of internet fraud or do you suspect this? Contact our lawyers. We advise you nationwide on the topics of scams and scamming, phishing, fraud in general, cybercrime, bitcoin fraud, internet fraud and cybercrime.

Table of contents

  1. Scamming and Scams: what exactly is it?
  2. Romance Scams: Explanation
  3. Scams on the Internet – other scamming methods
  4. Scamming tricks: stealing sensitive data
  5. Scams and scamming – lawyer advises

Scams and scamming? What exactly is it?

Although the word “scamming” is used more and more often, many people have no idea what it actually means.  For this reason, this guide starts with a definition of the term.

Scamming is a term coined by cyber criminals that roughly translates to “fraud”.

Scammers who use scamming methods are primarily interested in obtaining your personal and financial information in order to cheat you out of money. Scamming can take a variety of forms. “Romance scamming” is a common form of fraud.

Romance Scams: Explanation

This type of deception, known as romance scamming, is common among those looking for a partner on the internet.

It is a scam that often also occurs on well-known dating websites that are understood to be reputable – as well as in forums, social media and other chat services. The victims are made to believe that they are the most attractive person in the world for the scammer after only a short time.

The criminals make their victims feel protected and create a basis of trust by declaring their love. This is all well and good until the scammer demands money from his internet acquaintance.

Romance scamming – the scammers’ approach

As a rule, they pretend to be educated men (in rare cases also women) with respectable professions. In doing so, they want to make it appear that they are not primarily concerned with the victim’s money. They spend a lot of time building up the victim’s trust before demanding a large sum of money.

During this short but intense period of getting to know each other over the internet, victims often develop an emotional dependence on the scammers.

They feel compelled to give them money. Usually, the criminals are in another country and supposedly need money for a plane ticket, surgery for their biological child who is seriously ill, or some other fictitious reason – usually an alleged emergency.

A sum of money is demanded from the victim with the promise of a quick repayment. However, this does not happen. Once the fraudster has received the money, he either disappears with it or demands a second payment at a later date.

Romance scamming – how to protect yourself

Always remain cautious and sceptical. Even if the temptation is great and your supposedly ideal partner is only a few mouse clicks away, there is a high risk of becoming a victim of fraud. Check the identity of people with whom you make contact exclusively via the Internet.

When it comes to internet acquaintances, the old adage applies: trust is nice, but control is better.

If you use a dating site and someone declares their love for you almost immediately and then asks you for money, you should be on your guard.

Never give money to a complete stranger. Especially not someone you met on the Internet just a few days ago. Keep any correspondence you have received from the stranger, including emails, text messages and letters. Present them to the police if you suspect fraud.

Scams and scamming: other types of fraud

In the following text section, we describe other types of Internet fraud, scams and scamming. Basically, you should always be careful with your data – especially on the internet. Since Internet fraudsters are always using new scams, it is important to inform yourself regularly about the topic of scamming.

Fraud in the financial sector

Investment scams often promise high profits, fast money or a profit guarantee. To avoid falling victim to a scam, avoid investing in opportunities that promise big profits with little or no risk. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Before you decide to invest, get legal advice.

Cryptocurrency fraud

Digital currencies are called cryptocurrencies. The best known digital money is Bitcoin. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between legal cryptocurrency investments and rip-offs. In this less regulated environment, scammers exploit the excitement around digital currencies to get you to (allegedly) invest in cryptocurrencies.

Ask yourself if you are prepared to lose all your money before investing. And be aware that you have little or no protection if you do.

Criminals in the cryptocurrency analage scam appear very convincing. They advertise cryptocurrency trading through ads or posts on social media promising big profits. When you click on an ad or post, you are redirected to a fake website or contacted by the scammer.

The scammers may offer to invest on your behalf. Or provide you with information about an app or website where you can do this. Scammers who take advantage of cryptocurrency users often contact their victims via social networks such as Facebook or Telegram.

The perpetrators ask you to pay money to a company so that they can purchase cryptocurrencies in your name. Or they ask you to send money to an exchange. Afterwards, they pretend to handle the trade for you. Sometimes they also offer to teach you how to do it yourself. A website, an app or the special MetaTrader platform can show you your supposed profits.

Fake data is presented showing your supposed profits (or losses to get you to invest more money). In the end, you will not get any money out. You will be blacklisted from the platform, or the trading platform will be closed by the scammers under the pretext of delaying withdrawals.

The scammers do not answer your calls or emails and your money is gone.

Scamming with fake invoices

Fake or fabricated invoices are used to try to get you or your business to pay for products, services or the like that you have not actually bought or commissioned. This can include things like:

  • (Industry) directory listings
  • Advertising measures
  • Renewal or other costs for your domain
  • Office supplies

How does this scam work?

Scams and scamming with fake invoices: If your business receives an invoice, letter or request to be listed in a “fake” directory or to renew your domain name, you should be on your guard. The scammer might call you unannounced to clarify details of an ad booking or to insist that you have purchased certain products or services.

These fraudsters take advantage of the fact that the company’s administrative staff may not know whether advertising or sales promotions have been approved.

Fake bills are often used as attachments in email-based ransomware schemes. If a utility company sends you a bill you weren’t expecting, you shouldn’t open it.

Payment diversion scam

A fraudster posing as one of your regular suppliers calls claiming that his bank details have changed after he broke into your computer system.

He claims he has just changed banks and may try to convince you that he is genuine by using stolen letterhead and trademarks. You will then be given a new account number with which to make all future payments.

If your usual provider asks you why he has not paid, you have probably been the victim of a scam.

Scams and scamming: scams in the real estate market

In the private housing market, you will come across some scammers when looking for a new home. The scammers sometimes use photos of large, newly renovated flats as bait to lure unsuspecting victims. Especially those who are in need and are pressed for time when looking for a new flat quickly fall for these fake flat ads.

Most of the time, these scammers don’t bother to arrange viewing appointments, but simply give you a fictitious rental contract. And this is after they have merely exchanged a few emails.

They also often ask for the deposit in advance and want to send you the house key by post because they are currently “abroad”.

Stay away from dubious deals and never put down a deposit on a rental property you have not even viewed. In many cases, the scammers are unable to be tracked down by the authorities. The victims end up with an empty wallet and an uninhabitable or non-existent flat.

Inheritance in Nigeria – Scamming with false promises of money

People who are desperate for money and find themselves in a bad financial situation often resort to dubious means.

The Nigeria Connection is a well-known scam in which victims are tricked by e-mail or even by letter into giving up their personal data in exchange for enormous sums of money.

This usually involves bequests or other family heirlooms. The fraudsters demand large sums of money for processing, e.g. notary fees or other costs. You should never reply to such messages and never give out your personal details.

In unforeseen money scams, the scammers offer you part of a large sum of money or a reward for helping them transfer the funds out of their country.

Scams – COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Scammers are even taking advantage of a pandemic like COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Scams related to COVID-19: Since the beginning of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) epidemic, numerous scam reports related to coronavirus have been filed worldwide.

Most of the losses have been through identity theft and online shopping and retirement fraud. Therefore, even if you are approached by a reputable group, you should stop and ask.

Scamming in connection with vaccinations

  1. Offering free vaccinations in exchange for money or granting early access
  2. Vaccines are offered for mail order
  3. Investment opportunities in Pfizer vaccines are offered in exchange for money
  4. Fake surveys about vaccinations promising rewards or early access

Medical and health-related articles

Medical and health-related items Scammers often claim to offer you “cure-alls”, medicines and treatments at low prices, but never deliver them.

Online purchase scams

Fraudsters have set up fake internet companies to sell items that do not exist, such as treatments for COVID-19 or vaccines against it, as well as face masks and other medical items.

There are also scams targeting businesses: The scammers use COVID-19 to divert your regular account payments to another bank account by pretending to be a supplier or company you regularly do business with. Your money is transferred to the scammer and not to the legitimate company.

Of course, there are other fake online shops that do not offer products related to COVID-19. Very often, these are fake sellers of electrical appliances, high-end jewellery and clothing.

Scamming in sports betting

Investors in sports betting and investments in fail-safe methods and software that “guarantee” a return from sporting events are the target of scammers.

Job scamming definition: online job application fraud

Job scamming definition – fraud with job advertisements. The police regularly warn against fake job advertisements on the internet. Internet criminals have identified a new target, according to the authorities: job seekers. Job scammers promise you a quick earning opportunity or a well-paid job for little work.

In exchange for your personal data and financial information. Big headlines were also made by scammers who placed fake job ads on the job board of the Federal Employment Agency, thus grabbing a lot of personal data from the “applicants”.

With these fake job offers on relevant online job boards, they try to collect personal information about the unsuspecting applicants in order to sell them. But they also use the applicants’ data to open accounts that are used, among other things, for money laundering.

To achieve their goals, the fraudsters use various fraud techniques.

Fraud victims Job seekers

The perpetrators allegedly post vacancies on reputable job boards advertising high salaries, flexible working hours and the possibility to work from home. In this way, they manage to attract a large number of victims. In the job advertisements, they pretend to be a real existing company.

Occasionally, the names of well-known companies are also used in the job advertisements.

In recent months, new job postings have been appearing daily offering jobs as remote app testers and the like. The fake company websites are linked via URLs that look like they belong to a reputable company.

Procedure and intentions of the perpetrators – data theft

The offers usually seem particularly attractive. A well-known company promises applicants a high salary with low working hours as well as many additional benefits, flexible working hours and complete home office work. The job seeker is led to believe: Here beckons the absolute dream job!

What is behind job scamming? The targeted theft of your personal data.

It is common for job seekers to provide sensitive personal data when applying for a job. However, you have no idea who you are giving it to when you apply for a job on the internet.

After receiving an application, criminals often use WhatsApp to contact applicants. In order to keep up the appearance that you are real CEOs, they use matching photos of strangers from the Internet as their profile pictures.

In the WhatsApp chat, the applicant is quickly led to believe: He has the job. His area of responsibility is also explained to him straight away. He is supposed to receive money and then transfer it to the company headquarters.

To do this, he would have to open a bank account, for which the scammers would need the applicant’s identity documents and he would have to go through a video identification procedure in which he would have to give all his personal data.

He – the applicant – could be reassured because the account would only serve to verify his identity and would be deleted again as soon as it was no longer needed. But this is a lie.

Job fraud: video identification procedure to create bank accounts

The reality is this: The criminals are responsible for managing the email address and account access data. The account opened by the unsuspecting applicant is then available for full access by the fraudsters. In the applicant’s name, the criminals can now carry out all illegal activities such as money laundering.

However, since they use the applicant’s data, in the event of an investigation by the criminal authorities, the applicant, and not just the perpetrators, may also face criminal consequences.

Sometimes these bank accounts, including access and identity data of the fraud victim, are also sold on the Darknet.

The victim usually only becomes aware of the fraud later. If the account is abused, high claims for damages can arise.

The method described above is only one example of many used in the practice known as job scamming. In other cases, you are asked to use a chargeable hotline to apply for a job or to pay for expensive software.

Merely trading your personal data from your CV is also extremely lucrative for the criminals.

Job scamming: Protect yourself!

Stay sceptical and try to answer these 8 questions:

  1. Who is the alleged employer, what is their email address and web address?
  2. Enter the name of the alleged company and the keyword experiences in Google. Evaluate the results. You may find a direct reference to other victims of fraud.
  3. Search for the company on Xing or LinkedIn – especially for the alleged contact person/personnel to whom the job advertisement says you should apply.
  4. Do the job advertisement and the employer’s website make a serious impression?
  5. Is there an imprint on the website?
  6. Is the supposed company officially registered? (Commercial Register, Federal Gazette, Business Register).
  7. If the job advertisement is for a well-known company, look up a telephone number in the telephone book or on the Internet and ask whether the position is actually vacant.
  8. Are the salary details and other promises in the job advertisement realistic or “too good to be true”?

Job scamming: Please also note the following information

WhatsApp is not a secure means of transmitting sensitive personal data. Also, contacting someone via such a messenger service does not look serious at all.

Do not be fooled by a bank’s request for a video ID procedure if you have not applied for an account yourself.

  1. Check: Is there a provider for video identification? Is it genuine and officially approved? If you are suddenly asked to transfer money, place an order or make a purchase during an application process, you should proceed with extreme caution.
  2. Victims of such fraud and anyone who has reasonable suspicion should immediately contact the police and file a complaint. To do this, collect evidence (screenshots, printouts, contact details/telephone number of the scammers).

To report a scam as quickly as possible, you should contact the police. In many cases, this can also be done online. If you want to report a fraud to the police, read our guide to filing a criminal complaint for fraud.

Our lawyers are also available to help you with this. We will advise you comprehensively in a fraud case and represent your interests in and out of court.

Next, you need to contact your bank or the respective credit institution. As a rule, a police report is required before a financial institution takes action.

Measures in case of job scamming

Using a video-identification process in an online application is absolutely unacceptable. You should never create an account using video identification in an application process, no matter how convenient it may be.

  1. If you have already participated in such a procedure, you may have to have your account blocked.
  2. If you have given your personal data to a stranger, you should file a criminal complaint with the authorities. This is because criminals only need copies of your personal identification papers to commit crimes.

Have you become a victim of job scamming? In case of fraud, contact our lawyers at the Herfurtner law firm and arrange an initial consultation.

Death threats and coercion

Death threats, arrest and other forms of coercion are common tactics used by scammers to get you to pay money you supposedly owe them. Here’s how it works: The scammers make threats, even threats against your life, to get you to hand over money.

You may receive a phone call or email from the scammers demanding urgent payment, threatening you with arrest or telling you that they will send the police to your home if you do not comply. As an additional tactic, the scammers send letters and mails claiming that you owe them money, e.g. because of a parking ticket, unpaid taxes or an overdue bill.

Some scammers claim to have compromising images or video footage of you – for example, by allegedly accessing your screen camera – and threaten to publish this data if you do not comply with their request for payment.

Fake charities

Fraudsters pose as reputable charities. They ask you for donations and contact you under the pretext of collecting money for relief efforts after natural disasters. Touching but fictitious stories about people in need or those who require expensive medication or surgery are intended to entice you to donate sums of money.

Therefore, verify every appeal for donations. Research whether the organisation or charity really exists. Can you find warnings? Or credible press reports?

Unexpected prizes

Travel scammers will ask you to deposit money upfront for a “prize”, such as a free or discounted trip. As a result of this scam, you will receive a message by phone, SMS, email or post telling you that you have won a reward in the form of vouchers for a discounted holiday. However, your supposed trip comes at a cost.

You may also be offered a fantastic prize for an all-inclusive holiday package at a well-known location. In some scams, people are offered cheap holidays that include entry to theme parks or cruises. In reality, however, the gift or reward does not exist.

Signs of travel scams and scamming

If you search for a trip on the internet and sign up to receive additional information, you could be a victim of a travel scam. It is also possible to take part in an online survey and win a trip or gift vouchers after completing it. Then, when it comes time to pay out the prize, you are told that you must buy additional travel vouchers as a prerequisite.

In order to receive the ‘prize’, you must provide your credit card number when you accept this offer. The scammers will quickly withdraw money from your bank account if you give them your credit card details. Your personal information can also be used for other types of identity theft.

The promised prizes or vouchers are not sent and you cannot redeem them. You may receive tickets and an itinerary from the scammers. But when the time comes, the tickets are worthless and the company cannot be contacted.

Scamming suspicion or the jackpot?

Your email inbox is flooded with messages from strangers telling you that you have won an expensive trip or hotel stay. Even though you didn’t enter a prize draw at all. You are told you still have a chance to win the holiday at a reduced price.

Payment may be requested in the form of a cheque, bank transfer or money order. Unless otherwise stated, there is no way to contact the company making the offer.

Scammers pretending to be associated with well-known and reputable organisations such as airlines or hotel chains may fool you into thinking they are a reputable company.

If you win an unexpected prize or fall victim to a lottery scam, you may be asked to pay a fee. Only then, the scammers say, can they give you the prize or your winnings from a competition or lottery. If you react with scepticism because you have never taken part in this or any other raffle, they often talk about a random draw.

Scamming tricks: stealing sensitive data

Scammers often target your personal data. Be careful at all times when handling your sensitive data.

Sensitive data is personal data concerning, for example, the following:

  • Trade union membership
  • Religious affiliation
  • Political views
  • Identification numbers – tax ID, social security, identity card
  • Bank data
  • Customer data
  • Online data
  • Ethnic origin
  • Sexual orientation
  • Personal identification: biometric data such as fingerprints or those relating to genetics
  • Health data, medical records, etc.

Scams and Scamming – Hacker Attacks

Hacking is when a scammer uses technology and IT knowledge to gain illegal access to your computer, mobile device or network. There are ways to protect yourself from an attack from hackers:

  • use secure credentials for your accounts and online services.
    • Use different passwords
    • Passwords of at least 8 characters
    • important accounts: 16 characters consisting of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers and special characters
  • Check the access permissions of your apps
  • Be careful with publicly used computers, WLAN and hotspots
  • Do not open any file attachments from senders you do not know.
  • Do not use single sign-on
  • Keep your anti-virus programme up to date on your end devices
  • Place value on end-to-end encryption
  • Turn off notifications on the lock screen – this way no one can read what you are saying.
  • Use two-factor authentication

Malware and Ransomware

Malware attempts to trick you into downloading malicious software. Through these, criminals gain unfettered access to your files and have the ability to monitor your every move.

Exploitation of vulnerabilities: Vulnerabilities can include repeated and easily guessed passwords, outdated anti-virus software, unprotected WiFi and Bluetooth connections, etc.

With companies, a fraudster poses as a regular customer and tells them that their bank details have changed. In this case, he gives you a new account number and instructs you to use it for future payments. Often the scam goes undetected until your regular calls to find out why they haven’t received payment.

Fraudsters can change your passwords and restrict access to your system once they have hacked into your computer or mobile device. With the information thus obtained, they can carry out scams such as identity theft or gain direct access to your bank account and credit card details.

Phishing – vermeintliche E-Mails von Behörden

In Textnachrichten und E-Mails geben sich Betrüger als Regierungsbehörden aus und geben Ihnen Informationen über COVID-19, während sie gleichzeitig nach Ihren persönlichen Daten “phishen”.

Sie finden hier schädliche Links und Anhänge, die dazu benutzt werden können, Ihre finanziellen und persönlichen Daten zu stehlen, wenn Sie darauf klicken.

Oder die Betrüger geben sich als Vertreter von Behörden oder anderen Organisationen aus und bieten Ihnen an, Ihnen zu helfen, finanzielle Unterstützung oder eine Entschädigung zu erhalten, wenn Sie mit Ihren Kindern zu Hause bleiben.

Scamming with malware: clues

These are 8 clues that you have become a victim of malware-related scamming:

  1. You can no longer access your email, social media or other online accounts from your computer or mobile device.
  2. You have noticed that new icons appear on your computer’s desktop or that it is running slower than normal.
  3. The files on your computer have been rearranged or deleted.
  4. Pop-up windows appear on your screen.
  5. Depending on the design, you may see the option to “fix” your computer or you may only see a “Close” button.
  6. Your phone or internet bill was shockingly high.
  7. You have noticed that money has mysteriously disappeared from your bank account.
  8. You suspect that your mobile phone number has been misused after noticing that the reception bars on your phone have been replaced with the words “Emergency calls only”.

Protection against scams and scamming with malicious software

Update your antivirus and antispyware software as well as your firewall to give your computer the best protection. Only buy computer and antivirus software from well-known companies.

If you think your computer’s security is at risk, run a virus scan with your protection software. If in doubt, contact your antivirus software provider or a computer professional.

Protect your networks and devices and do not share confidential information via public computers or WiFi hotspots. Choose and change passwords and PINs regularly so they are harder for others to guess.

Keep strangers’ eyes off your phone or computer.

Never open attachments or click on links in emails or social media you receive from strangers. Instead, just press the trash button when you see them.

Be careful when downloading free music, games, movies and pornographic content. You may not be aware that when you download these files, you have also installed dangerous software on your computer.

Online forms should not be filled out automatically with software.

Theft of personal data: scams and scamming

When another person’s identity is stolen and exploited to steal money or gain other benefits, it is called identity theft.

Identity theft often occurs through the use of phishing.

Security holes on your computer, smartphone or network are exploited by fraudsters to gain access to your data. Hacking into corporate or government accounts can also give fraudsters access to your personal information.

Fraudsters use remote access to get you to pay for services you don’t need and give them access to your computer.

Malware and ransomware entice you to install software that gives fraudsters access to your data and monitors your activities. Ransomware usually asks for money to ‘unlock’ your computer or files.

Fake profiles

Fraudulent profiles on social media or dating websites: The fraudster creates a fake profile and sends you a friend request, giving them access to their publicly shared data.

Document theft

Theft of personal papers, such as utility bills, insurance policies or medical records, is a type of document theft used by fraudsters.

Data leaks

Data breach – the fraudster has access to your personal information as a result of a data breach at a company or government agency. Usually you realise too late that some of your personal information has been compromised.

Misuse of your personal data

Fraudsters can do the following with your personal data:

They can take control of your bank account, take out loans and withdraw all funds. They borrow money from friends and relatives or open new bank accounts in your own name.

You sign contracts for telephone services and other services. They make high-priced purchases in your name and at your expense.

The scammers can gain online access to all federal government services. They can also look through your emails for private and sensitive information to blackmail you. In addition, if they have access to your social media accounts, they can impersonate you to defraud your loved ones.

Scamming: Identity theft – clear warning signs

  1. You are shown that someone has accessed your profile from a strange location.
  2. You have been rejected for a financial service or credit application.
  3. You receive invoices or receipts addressed to you personally, even though you did not purchase the goods.
  4. Companies or people approach you even though you have not dealt with them, assuming you are a customer or business partner.

Scams & Scamming: Safety Precautions

Don’t click on links in questionable text messages or emails. If you are unsure of a contact’s identity, call the company directly. You can get this information from a variety of places, such as the phone book or online. Do not contact the sender using the information in the message you received.

If you are dealing with someone you do not know or trust, never transfer money, give credit card or online account details, or hand over copies of personal papers.

Always be careful when giving strangers remote access through your computer. You never know who they are.

Make sure your passwords are difficult to decipher. Use different passwords for each website and never share your passwords with anyone.

Use anti-virus software and a solid firewall to protect your networks and devices. Do not access public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots and do not share personal information.

Be extremely careful when sharing sensitive personal information on social networking platforms.

Fraudsters can create a fake identity from your personal data and photos or use them to harass you. Before disposing of documents with personal data, lock your mailbox and shred or destroy them.

Scams and scamming – fraud with unauthorised remote access

Scammers using remote access try to convince you that your computer or internet connection is down. They claim that you need to buy additional software to fix the problem.

The scammer calls you and pretends to be an employee of a large telecommunications or internet company such as Telekom, Vodafone or Microsoft.

He may also pose as a representative of a company that offers technical support. Then the scammers tell you that your computer is giving out error messages or is infected with a virus.

Your internet or phone connection may come up in conversation, and they claim that recent alleged “problems” have affected your computer’s performance. The potential hacker may tell them that your internet connection has been affected. In order to “find out where the problem is”, the caller requests remote access to your computer.

It is possible that the scammer will ask you for personal information such as your national insurance number, bank account information or credit card details in order to convince you to pay for software or to ‘fix’ your computer – although of course you don’t need to.

At first glance, the scammer may seem well-informed and competent; however, if you refuse to comply with his demands, he may become angry and even aggressive.

These scammers contact you regardless of whether you are a Telekom or Vodafone customer or not. You do not even have to own a computer to be contacted by these criminals.

Scams and scamming: summary and legal advice

We, Herfurtner Rechtsanwaltsgesellschaft GmbH, have provided you with essential information and tips on how to protect yourself against scams and scamming on the Internet.

Do you have further questions on this topic or have you already become a victim of a scam?

Contact the Herfurtner law firm and speak to one of our lawyers. We will advise you comprehensively and nationwide on scamming situations.