How to Protect Yourself from Scams Online
There were around 413 million internet users in 2000. Today, that figure is closer to 5 billion active internet users out of a global population nearing 8 billion. Opportunities for sharing ideas and information, collaborating on projects, and meeting new people abound. But, of course, there are always some bad apples in the cart.
With 5 billion users, it’s worth learning how to spot those who just want our money via criminal means. Internet technology has advanced massively over the last 20 years, but, fortunately, so have the tools and resources available to protect us. So here are 7 things you can do to protect yourself from scams online today.
1. Update Your Virus Checker
Before going online, the first thing to do has always been and remains to be ensuring you have an active, up-to-date virus checker. Most computers come with a virus checker, although a free or trial version may require you to pay to upgrade. There are many free virus checkers, but it may be worth paying a fee to ensure you are secure.
Unless you know what you are doing, it can be wise to go with a brand name like MacAfee or Norton. There are two main reasons for this. First, they have been in the internet security business for years and provide leading technology and regular updates. Secondly, be aware that many sites offering free virus checkers are run by scammers looking for people with vulnerable machines on which to download malicious software.
2. Turn on Your Firewall
A firewall is software that monitors every bit of data attempting to access your network or leave it. That means every email, every connection to a website, every download, and more.
Pro virus checking tools often come with a firewall. To avoid someone accessing your device and personal information, make sure you have a firewall and that it’s on.
3. Learn to Spot Scams and Report Spam
Among the most common scams are phishing attempts, in which someone is fishing for confidential, personally-identifying information (PII). They can potentially use this for identity theft to commit fraud.
Watch out for spam emails, too. These emails are sent indiscriminately with misleading and false information in the hope that a few people will respond with money or PII. They may offer job opportunities, say that you have a parcel to collect, tell you to claim a prize, demand money for tax purposes, and much more. They can seem genuine at first, but look out for tell-tale signs of spam:
- Terrible spelling and grammar – most spam emails have atrocious spelling and grammar. Legitimate businesses check their marketing and emails multiple times to create a good impression.
- Urgency – Spam emails aim to get people to act quickly without thinking. Citing a rapidly approaching deadline is often the way they achieve this.
- Fake business names – a scammer sending spam emails will often do so as if it’s from a reputable business, deliberately misspelling the name of a well-known organization. They hope to gain the credibility of the business name. Run from any emails from “TheFacebook” or “Microsoft.”
- Use of messaging apps – professional organizations are all over social media, but they tend not to reach out to potential or existing customers via messenger in the first instance. Businesses that start communications by text or messaging apps are unlikely to be legit.
4. Protect Your Personally Identifiable Information
Sometimes scammers want you to send them money. Often, however, they want your personally identifiable information, with which they can commit fraud. Unless you are sure you are communicating with someone you know or a legitimate business, protect information that would allow someone to identify you, including your:
- Email address
- Phone number
- Date of Birth
- Bank account number
- Credit or debit card number
Some of these details seem innocuous. In the wrong hands, however, they can be used to create false documents or accounts to commit fraud.
- Check Identities
With billions of users online worldwide, it’s difficult to know who is genuinely communicating with you and what they really want. If you are unsure, use Nuwber to verify the person’s identity.
Nuwber allows you to access a massive database of US citizens, allowing you to verify their information, such as their proposed location and profession. A quick check with Nuwber can help you tell whether or not someone is legitimate and honest.
6. Only Do Transactions with Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Encryption
You don’t need to install or configure anything. Just make sure that you can see HTTPS in and/or a closed padlock symbol in the address bar while online. These signify that anything you send or receive from that page is encrypted to prevent people from watching, intercepting, or changing it.
To stay secure online, don’t do any financial transactions or send personal information from or to a website that is not encrypted.
7. Avoid Public Wifi
Like using websites without SSL, using public wifi is not secure. Public wifi means open internet connections, such as those you might find in cafes or airports. This kind of network tends to be easy to access and is therefore attractive to criminals. Third parties can access these networks and potentially steal or modify the data you send and receive.
To avoid scams, including someone taking your confidential information or sending messages while posing as you, avoid using an unsecured, public network. Wait until you get home or to work, or use your cell’s data package, especially if you want to make financial transactions.
The internet remains an incredible resource that helps us work, learn, and play with others. We all have a responsibility to make it safer. If this advice has helped you, please share. These tips can help us protect ourselves and others from online scams.
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How to Protect Yourself from Scams Online