How to Avoid Internet Scams

Here’s a way to screw up your holidays:  Get looted from an internet scam.  Time for eight tips to avoid internet thieves:

  1. Guard your personal information. Never give personal information over the phone, text or email to someone you don’t know.
  2. Do business only with those you know and trust. This is good advice, but these days, you additionally have to be aware of crooks posing as a legitimate business you know and trust.
  3. Double check. We just talked about why.  The bad guys will try to pose like good guys.  Check who that email came from in the from line and compare it to known legitimate emails.  Have doubts about somebody calling you claiming to be from a trusted source?  Get their name and number, internet search the number and if legitimate you can call them back.
  4. Monitor accounts. Look for suspicious credit card transactions or other activity you don’t recognize.
  5. Watch what you click on. Beware email attachments from sources unfamiliar to you.
  6. Keep your antivirus software current and working.
  7. Be on guard for any contact you didn’t initiate, be it a phone call, text message or email. Reach out directly in a separate email, text or phone call to your trusted sources to confirm the validity of this unsolicited contact.
  8. Beware these scams:
    1. Romance Scams – Someone online is interested in you but has every excuse about why they can’t meet in person, then they ask for money.
    2. Overpayment Scams – Someone is going to overpay you for some item you’re selling or renting and you’re supposed to refund them the difference. Only your refund will be legitimate funds.
    3. Phishing Scams – Scamsters email you from a seemingly legitimate company asking you to update your personal information or otherwise provide sensitive personal information like passwords, credit card numbers or even a social security number. Often, these scams have poor grammar or don’t look quite right in any number of ways.  When in doubt, separately contact your existing trusted contacts at the company to confirm the legitimacy of this phisherman.
    4. Unexpected prize. All you need to do to claim it is to pay a shipping charge or other fee.  Now the scammer has your money and probably your credit card info too.
    5. Ransomware Scam. If you make the mistake of clicking on something you shouldn’t have, the result is that a scammer could encrypt your data locking you out from your own files.  In exchange for a ransom, the scammer is supposed to restore your data, but this often doesn’t happen.  Some scammers skip the encryption part and just claim that they’ve copied or stolen your data.  These you can just ignore.
    6. Tech Support Scam. Once again, if you innocently import malware by clicking something you shouldn’t, you may get pop up ads from tech support companies warning you that you have a serious computer problem that the tech support scammer wants to fix.

The best solution is to maintain a certain degree of cynicism.  Assume any unfamiliar contacts are from someone trying to steal from you!

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