digital nomad scams

10 common scams digital nomads must be aware of

6 Mins Read

PUREVPN10 common scams digital nomads must be aware of

Living the life of a digital nomad offers incredible freedoms and opportunities. After all, who wouldn’t want to swap their desk for a beachside hammock or a cozy café in an exotic location?

While the freedom of being a digital nomad is unbeatable, it’s important to remember that with every great adventure, there’s always the potential for great risks – especially when you’re living in a foreign country as a digital nomad.

Top 10 scams that digital nomads must keep an eye out for

We’ve put together a list of 10 most common scams that digital nomads must be aware of. Whether you’re a seasoned explorer or just starting your career, staying informed and vigilant is essential to safeguarding your financial and personal well-being while on the road. 

Here are some things you remain wary of on your journey as a digital nomad.

1. Fake accommodation listings

Finding suitable and reliable accommodation is extremely important for digital nomads. Unfortunately, scammers are aware of this and often create enticing fake accommodation listings to lure unsuspecting victims. They might advertise beautiful apartments or houses at unbelievable prices, require full payment upfront, and then disappear, leaving you stranded in a new, unfamiliar place.

How to avoid this scam?

To avoid falling victim to this scam, you should always use reputable accommodation platforms that have a robust review system. Take the time to read reviews from previous tenants and reach out to the host directly if you have any doubts. Furthermore, never make full payment in advance without verifying the authenticity of the listing or the host.

2. Phishing emails and fake websites

Digital nomads heavily rely on email communications, making them more susceptible to phishing attacks. Cybercriminals send fraudulent emails designed to appear as messages from reputable sources, such as your bank, government institutions, or well-known companies. They often lure online users into clicking on malicious links or sharing their personal information. 

How to avoid this scam?

You can stay vigilant and safeguard your online privacy by double-checking the sender’s email address, scrutinizing URLs before inputting sensitive data, and enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. Moreover, if you receive an email asking for personal or financial information, contact the relevant institution directly to verify the authenticity of the request.

3. Work-from-home job scams

The allure of remote work often makes digital nomads prime targets for work-from-home job scams. These scams promise quick money with little effort, exploiting individuals desperate for income on the road. It is important to note that scammers typically ask for payment upfront or request personal information under the guise of an application process.

How to avoid this scam?

You can protect yourself by researching the company extensively and checking its online presence. Legitimate companies will have a professional website, active social media accounts, and genuine employee reviews. In addition, you should be particularly cautious about paying any fees in advance for job applications or offers, as genuine employers usually cover the hiring process costs.

4. Fake online marketplaces

Digital nomads frequently rely on online platforms such as Facebook Marketplace to purchase and sell goods. Unfortunately, counterfeit online marketplaces exist, aiming for nothing more than duping unsuspecting users. So, if you have moved into a new place and want to buy some furniture at thrift prices, you could easily fall victim to such a scam.

How to avoid this scam?

To avoid falling prey to this scam, verify the legitimacy of the platform before conducting any transactions. Look for established and reputable platforms that offer buyer/seller protection policies. Furthermore, make sure to read user reviews and beware of deals that seem too good to be true. 

If a deal feels suspicious, trust your instincts and opt for a safer alternative.

5.  ATM skimming and card fraud

Traveling as a digital nomad often involves relying on ATMs to access your money abroad. However, it’s crucial to be wary of ATM skimming scams that can compromise your financial security. Regardless of where you are in the world, keep an eye out for unfamiliar devices installed on ATMs. These machines could capture your card details, allowing criminals to spend your hard-earned money without your knowledge or consent. 

How to avoid this scam?

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself from this scam is to use ATMs attached to bank branches, as they are typically more secure. When entering your PIN, use your other hand or an object to shield the keypad from prying eyes or hidden cameras. Also, regularly review your bank statements to catch any suspicious activity as early as possible.

Read more: Why do freelancers and remote workers should start using a VPN?

6.  Public WiFi hacking

Public WiFi networks can be a lifesaver, especially when you are traveling or working abroad. In fact, many digital nomads heavily depend on these public networks, whether in coffee shops, co-working spaces, or airports, to get their work done. Unfortunately, these networks can be rife with hackers, eagerly waiting to intercept your sensitive data. 

How to avoid this scam?

You can safeguard your online privacy by investing in a reliable Virtual Private Network (VPN) service such as PureVPN. It will encrypt your internet connection and ensure your data remains secure, even on unsecured networks. 

Furthermore, be cautious when accessing sensitive information, such as online banking, and consider using your mobile hotspot or a portable router when working with confidential data.

7.  Tax scams

Navigating tax regulations can be daunting for digital nomads operating in multiple countries. Scammers exploit this complexity, posing as tax authorities and targeting unsuspecting individuals for fraudulent payments or personal information. One of the most popular tax scams include scammers requesting gift cards over the phone while impersonating IRS agents.

How to avoid this scam?

Digital nomads can enhance their online safety by learning about tax laws and regulations relevant to their situation. You can also seek advice from tax professionals who specialize in international taxation for expatriates and digital nomads. 

Remember that legitimate tax authorities typically communicate through formal channels, such as certified letters, and never threaten immediate actions or demand payments over the phone or via email.

8. Social media impersonation

Social media platforms have become a valuable tool for digital nomads to connect and network with others. However, it is essential to exercise caution and be aware of impersonation scams. Fraudsters often create fake profiles of well-known companies or individuals to establish trust and exploit unsuspecting victims. 

How to avoid this scam?

You should always verify the authenticity of social media accounts before engaging in financial transactions or providing sensitive information. Look for verified badges or check if the account has been active for a considerable period. Be cautious when clicking on links or downloading files shared through social media platforms, as they may lead to malware or phishing attempts.

9. Currency exchange scams

When traveling to different countries, digital nomads often encounter currency exchange scams that can result in monetary losses. 

Wondering how this scam takes place? Well, for starters, it can happen anywhere – be it an upmarket money exchange service or a seemingly shady place. The cashier at the office would offer you good exchange rates and the transaction would proceed as normal. The cashier will count the money in front of you to ensure you’re satisfied. However, once the money has been counted, the cashier or someone else will distract you for a couple of seconds so a few notes can be removed from the pile without you noticing.

How to avoid this scam?

As a rule of thumb, digital nomads must beware of unlicensed or unknown currency exchange offices offering attractive rates that seem a bit too high. Stick to reputable banks or authorized currency exchange services. Compare rates between trusted sources and count your money before leaving the counter to ensure the amount received matches the exchange rate.

10. Pyramid and investment schemes

Digital nomads seeking extra income streams may fall victim to investment or pyramid schemes promising lucrative returns. These scams often use deceptive techniques to trick individuals into investing their hard-earned money in dubious ventures. Remember that if something appears too good to be true, it probably is. 

How to avoid this scam?

You can avoid investment scams by remaining cautious, conducting thorough research on investment opportunities, and seeking advice from certified financial advisors or investment professionals. Never invest more money than you can afford to lose and be wary of pressure tactics or promises of guaranteed returns.

Wrapping it up

As digital nomads, being aware of potential scams and taking precautionary measures can go a long way in protecting your financial and personal well-being. By staying informed, conducting thorough research, and trusting your instincts, you can avoid falling victim to the common scams discussed in this blog. 

While the nomadic lifestyle presents unique challenges, adopting a safety-first approach will contribute to a worry-free journey as you embrace the freedom and opportunities it offers.

Stay connected to PureVPN Blog to relish every moment of your incredible adventure as a digital nomad. 

Read more: 27 remote workers tell how to stay safe using public WiFi

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