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How You Can Protect Yourself against Internet Scams

Expert Tips for Avoiding Online Fraud

Mar 28, 2017

Many consumers think that they are able to spot an online scam instantly. However, in 2015 more than 288,000 people were reported to have been victims of an Internet crime.[I]  Are you prepared to protect yourself and your personal information against online scams?

Knowing what to watch out for is the first step to avoiding Internet scams. Try these tips to safeguard your identity and reinforce your online fraud protection.

Be Wary of Phishing

Phishing refers to an attempt by someone to gain access to your personal information through false offers from a generic source or even a trusted business.[ii]

When you receive an email asking you for your bank account information or social security number, it is almost certainly a phishing scam. Banks and credit card companies will virtually never ask for you to verify your entire account number via email or over the phone.

The most effective way to protect yourself from phishing scams is to be vigilant of who is asking for your personal information. If you do receive a request for information from a trusted source such as your bank, give them a call, but not at the number provided in the email. Call them via the number on your monthly statement or on their website to verify the validity of the request.

Enter Personal Information Only into Secure Websites

Not all websites are created equal. Any time you are providing personal login or bank account information, double check to make sure the site you are using is secure. The first thing to check is that the website URL begins with “https://” rather than the traditional “http.” The “s” represents that the site is secure.

Another sign of website security is a small padlock or key emblem at the bottom of a website, a common symbol that a data-scrambling encryption technology is being used to keep your information secure.[iii]

Without these signs in place, you should be skeptical of the site you are browsing. Avoid giving any personal data that could allow possible scammers to access your bank account or other sensitive information.

Password Protection

Many people know that they should update their passwords, but have you done so recently? If you are using the same username and password for social media, online banking, and your favorite shopping sites, you may want to start updating those passwords today.

All it takes is a leak from one of those website’s databases for a fraudster to gain access to all of your financial and other personal information. Create unique passwords featuring a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters (e.g., #, !, and %) for each of your online accounts.

Wi-Fi Fraud

One of the latest ways scammers are using to gain access to personal information is to set up fake wireless hotspots. Make sure you are not entering personal information when you are connected to a public network. While having public access to Wi-Fi has its advantages, online security is not among them.

If you need to access your bank account from your mobile phone, stick to your data plan for optimal protection of your information. Using a store’s or bank’s app while on the go instead of your phone’s browser may add an extra layer of encryption, making it safer to enter personal information in public.[iv]

While it may be impossible to completely avoid Internet frauds or online scams, you can take measures to protect yourself. If you’re interested in finding more tips on how to protect your confidential information and avoid online fraud, we encourage you to visit the US Government’s page dedicated to online safety.

[i]“2015 Internet Crime Compliant Center” Federal Bureau of Investigation. https://pdf.ic3.gov/2015_IC3Report.pdf

[ii] “Phishing” Federal Trade Commission. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0003-phishing

[iii] “10 Signs that an Online Shopping Site is Secure” Norton.com https://us.norton.com/yoursecurityresource/detail.jsp?aid=secure_shopping

[iv] “9 Tips for Staying Safe as You Shop Online” USA Today. 17 Nov, 2015. http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2015/11/17/9-tips-staying-safe-you-shop-online/75878958/