The instances of online fraud only seem to grow every year. However, that doesn’t mean you need to swear off the Internet forever. Surfing the web can be safe and worry-free as long as careful steps are taken. Knowing how to spot a scam is crucial.
To keep your identity and money secure, here’s a quick guide to identifying—and avoiding—online fraud.
Never click suspicious links
Most of us are familiar with online phishing, but the fact that it’s still scarily persistent (check your junk mailbox) suggests we could all use a refresher.
Phishing works in different ways, but in the most common scenario, a scammer posts an appealing link as bait and then re-directs you to another website. Best case? You’ll be taken to a shady website. But in the worst-case situations, clicking the link infects your computer with a virus that steals your personal info or locks your computer until you agree to pay the scammer a ransom fee.
The simple solution? Think before you click.
Beware spam-y comments on social media
Scammers are smart. They know we’re viewing trending posts on social media. And the more popular the post, the more likely we’ll be to read and leave comments. The spammer will drop a dubious link into the conversation in the comments, claiming it connects to a relevant story or thread. Use your intuition, and be wary of any user or link that doesn’t quite look right.
Pro tip: As a general rule, you should change your passwords regularly, especially those of your financial accounts. Passwords are highly valued on the black market (i.e., Scammer Land).
Online Shopping for products you never receive
You may see these on social media or even in your email. The link will always direct you to a third-party eCommerce store. Before going to the site, do some research. They usually offer you high-end products at a really low price. Research the product to see if you could purchase it somewhere else. They typically require you to send them payment via electronic transfer—this could be a red flag. If you only lose your money for the cost of the product, count yourself lucky. Unfortunately, in most cases you have now shared your credit card information, which opens the door for them to use your information for future purchases.
Most online companies are not scammers. If you have not purchased from a company before, do your due diligence and research customer reviews, check for their contact information, and research the product to see if it is legit. Check to ensure the site starts with “HTTP” or “HTTPS.”
Pro tip: Only use sites that use secure payment platforms when shopping online.
Think twice before taking that survey
Online surveys can be very tempting. Usually, they’re promoted in banners or social media posts and promise deep discounts and giveaways; all you have to do is hand over your info.
The problem is that a lot of these surveys are bogus. A legit company probably isn’t going to give you a real deal via a flashing banner ad. And if you click, you may be giving up access to things like your bank and credit card info.
Dating profiles too good to be true
Unfortunately, scammers have started to invade online dating websites. They may be hard to spot at first, preferring to woo you over a period of time. So how do you identify them? Watch out for anyone who wants to move your conversation from the dating site to email, can never meet in person, or the big one—wants your money.