Internet Scams 101
The internet is a wonderful place where you can find information and services that may cost you daily, such as news and weather updates.
However, there are also numerous risks associated with using the internet because it’s an open platform where anyone can create an account or buy products without being monitored by authorities or any other law enforcement agency.
It’s important to understand that some people may use these platforms to lure others into making purchases they don’t really need or want by offering free gifts or services in exchange for personal information such as their birth date or ID numbers.
Sometimes, these scams can create a big mess than can take months and sometimes years to clean up. It’s best to avoid these possible issues before they happen. They can save you a lot of time and headaches.
Also people often think that it is older people or less savvy people that are the ones that get taken advantage of, and as much as that can be true – it is not always the case.
Even the most savvy and wise internet user can get caught in an unexpected trap and be taken advantage of. In this article, we are going to provide some tips to spot a fraud and avoid scams.
1. Don’t be a victim to phishing
Phishing is a type of online identity theft that uses bogus emails or websites to trick you into giving up valuable personal information. Even as a very savvy internet user that builds websites and codes, I have almost been tricked myself with these tactics.
Phishers can be anyone, and they’re often very good at what they do. These scams are often sophisticated enough to fool even the savviest of users, so it’s important to know how to recognize them before they have a chance to succeed.
Often these phishers create websites and emails that look just like the legitimate company. It makes it almost impossible to tell the difference. So what we tell our clients is to never click on a link to a website from an email that you are not 100% sure is really from the source. Meaning, even if you are 98.25% sure, don’t do it.
The best advice is to type the website URL into your browser and go to the site that way so that it makes it almost impossible for you to be phished.
2. Create strong passwords and don’t reuse them
Passwords are something even the best of us struggle with. We get lazy and tired and we make passwords that are easy to remember using information that’s very common.
We use our birthdays, names, families last names, pets, our address number or street and don’t think much about how unsafe this is.
Side Note: if you ever noticed on Facebook, there’s are these quizzes going around. The thing people don’t often understand is that the quizzes that people share that ask you what is your favorite food, where you grew up or what your pet’s name is aren’t actually benign – they are often created for data mining for identity theft.
Creating a strong password is the best way to protect yourself from identity theft and other types of cybercrime.
This means using at least 12 characters (a combination of letters, numbers and symbols), not using personal information that can be easily guessed (such as your birthday or your name) and not using the same password for multiple accounts.
We know how hard it is to remember passwords, so a good way to manage multiple account passwords is by using a password manager.
3. Be wary of free offers, free products and free services
Listen, we all love something free. I spent half my childhood in grocery stores begging my mother to allow me to go back to have a free sample from the lady at the table giving out little cups of hot pockets.
Unlike grocery stores, this was customary in the past, most of the time you’re not going to get something that’s amazing for free.
Free offers are often used for phishing (an attempt to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity in electronic communication).
Online scams may involve e-mails sent out to large groups of people that lure recipients into disclosing private information or clicking on links within the email message that direct them to websites controlled by the scammer.
Or, they may simply be web pages created with the intention of gathering such data from visitors who think they’ve found legitimate sites offering valuable services, but actually end up on malicious pages where their details can be harvested without their knowledge or consent.
If you receive any unsolicited or suspicious emails that ask you for personal details like your username or password, it’s probably best not even click on them – even if you know the company and who it came from.
This is a form of email fishing we are there trying to gather sensitive data to gain access to sensitive information. Also never open attachments, they are often a phishing message and a part of the email fishing.
Things to watch for:
Free offers are often too good to be true.
Free offers are often used to get your personal information.
Free offers are often used for identity theft.
4. Don’t share person information on social media platforms
If you’re on social media, it’s likely that you’ve shared your birth date at some point. You might have even posted the year of your birth and what day you were born. If so, you’ve just given scammers everything they need to access your accounts—and depending on what service you use, they may be able to do quite a bit with that information.
When someone is trying to access an account online (whether it’s for a website or a social media platform), one of the first steps in verifying identity is having them enter their birthday and other personal information such as their name and ID number. So you want to be very careful with this information.
If someone is claiming to be old enough to legally use the site or app in question, then this type of verification should work well enough for most people who aren’t trying anything fishy.
But using this method also means that hackers can steal all kinds of sensitive information from those same platforms if they get hold of what amounts to only two numbers: a month/year combination (or even just one if we’re talking about Facebook).
And since scammers often trick people into giving away their full names along with their birthdays as well when asking these questions over email or text message correspondence—it only makes sense why so many people fall prey when it comes time for scam artists (and sometimes even advertisers) looking for ways around security measures put in place by major websites.
Hackers use Facebook Quizes to steal your information to guess your passwords. Be very cautious when playing quizes online.
5. When making a purchase from an online store check your credit card statement for additional charges or purchases you did not make
Some of us are amazing at accounting and check our bank statements as well as credit card statements regularly and then there’s a whole other group of us that don’t. If you are part of the camp that doesn’t check their credit card or bank statements, it’s a good thing to start doing so.
When you purchase something online, you’re putting your sensitive information into a website and if the website isn’t protected by an SSL, then there’s an opportunity for hackers to gain that information. Also, when a site has an SSL it doesn’t mean that you are 100% protected but it does mean that the site is more safe and secure.
Google used to only require sites that sold items to have an SSL, now it is required for every site to have an SSL or you will get that blocked message from Google that shows the site isn’t accessible. So, if your website doesn’t have an SSL – it might be something for you to consider.
How do I know if my site has an SSL? We never thought you would ask. There is a little lock on the left-hand corner, showing in the image below in the yellow box.
Also because the site has the wording on the bottom that says that it’s a protected site, you can’t always believe that. Websites can say and do just about anything without them being regulated. So you have to be very careful on what information you are willing to put into a site and the risk that you’re willing to take. It’s much different putting your information into a Home Depot site to check out than it is a random clothing company you found through a Facebook ad.
So don’t forget to check your credit card statement every month for unauthorized charges. If you see something on your statement that you don’t recognize, contact the company that processed the charge.
For example, if there is a charge from “Dentist in Berlin” and you never visited a dentist in Berlin, report it immediately! Also be sure to notify your credit card company within 60 days of seeing an unauthorized charge so they can investigate further. If you don’t take care of it quickly, it can be a detriment to how it is resolved.
6. Look out for pop-up ads from unknown sources and never click on any ad that may install software without asking for permission first
Pop-up ads are a common way for hackers to trick you into clicking on them. How many times have you visited a website where there has been annoying pop-ups? Pop-ups are common for websites, even our website has a pop-up on our front page that asks you to download our free e-book SEO Is Not What You Think It Is.
On our pop-up, we ask you to enter your email address and we will provide you with the e-book. There is no issue with adding your email address to a pop-up, in exchange for a free downloads.
However, ads or pop-ups that are dangerous can lead to malware, malicious websites and even phishing scams. Look for pop-ups that seem out of place or contain an unexpected offer. Never click on any ad that may install software without asking for permission first.
Many businesses create Facebook ads or pop-ups on their website that ask you to provide your email address and exchange for a downloadable PDF or to have access to a video. Most cities marketing tactics are completely benign and not dangerous, but you must be careful who you’re giving your information to and how much information you’re willing to give.
Many scammers also use pop-ups as a way to redirect users from legitimate sites and apps to malicious ones, so be sure to check the URL before visiting a site or downloading anything from an app store—especially if it’s something you’ve never heard of before!
7. Review the terms and conditions before giving your consent to use a service or buy a product
As busy human beings, when being asked to review terms and conditions many of us just scan over them really generally. There’s so many different terms and conditions and privacy policies that are presented to us and often we become glazed over and just accept them.
The unfortunate thing is that scammers know this, because it’s common human behavior. With knowing this, it’s a good place to stuff content that allows them to take advantage of you.
It’s a good idea to take a look at the terms and conditions before signing up for a service or buying a product. Terms and conditions are legally binding, so if you don’t agree with them or find them too long or boring to read, you should think twice about using the company’s services.
Terms and conditions are usually very long documents that might not be easy to understand—and they often take time to read. They can also include complicated language that can make it hard for you to know whether something is acceptable or not.
Don’t accept terms and conditions that you don’t understand because you don’t know what you are legally binding yourself and internet crimes could cause you a lot of trouble.
8. Don’t provide your personal information to people over social messaging apps like whatsapp or facebook messenger
Don’t provide your personal information to people over social messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger – ever. There is no reason any person or representative of a large company like Facebook would send you a private message or tag you in a post.
Although it might seem real, it’s probably not. Also, if it is something legitimate and they do need to get in contact with you they will do it any more professional and secure way. If for some reason you are contacted by somebody who is a representative of a company and you let them know you’re concerned about them perhaps being a scammer, they will never be pushy with you. They will completely understand and find a way to prove to you that they are actually the person that they say they are.
In order for scammers to access your data, they might try to convince you that they’re someone else by claiming that it’s a important matter or sense of urgency. Or they may pretend to be from a bank and ask for your account details in order to verify them.
9. Beware of requests to send money through wire transfer services, such as western union, or by prepaid money cards, such as green dot moneypak cards
Western Union and MoneyPak are two of the most popular ways to send money, but they’re also popular places for scammers to ask you to send them money because it’s difficult to track after it’s been sent and used as instructed by scammers.
This can be hard on victims, who might have their identity stolen or otherwise fall victim to scams that they had no idea were happening until they started getting calls from creditors asking about debt they had incurred with the scammer.
Also when sending money through wire transfers, it can be very difficult to track after they’ve been sent and used by the instructor scammer after they pay a variety of fraudulent of purchases or scams. Plus it’s exhausting coming up with a recovery plan and trying to clean up a mess after you have been scammed.
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10. To avoid being duped by scammers and fraudulent activities online, it’s important that you do not provide your personal information on websites you do not know about
Sometimes, you might come across a website that looks very similar to another one. For example, if someone has created a copy of your bank’s website and is pretending to be your bank, you may think it’s the real thing. The best thing that you can do to know if you are on the correct website, is make sure that you type in the exact URL.
For example Chase Bank, will be Chasebank.com – there will not be any other iterations of that URL and if there is there probably a scam. Scammers continually create sites that look like Facebook, bank, Federal organizations and more.
Below is an example of a fake FB website that looks just like the real Facebook, but is is fake. Hackers can be very good at making things look almost identical.
Hackers can also hide the original URL and put up a fake one. So, if the fake site domain name is 1234drr.com, they can create a mask that hides the original domain URL and they can make it say anything they wish.
So when you look up on the search engine navigation bar you might see facebook.com, but that doesn’t mean you’re on facebook.com.
If something looks fishy, go to a new browser window and type in facebook.com and you will go directly to the correct page without any worry.
Image By: Leandro Almeida
It’s best to always take precautions, because it’s better to be safe than sorry
If you take these simple steps, you can go a long way in protecting yourself from online scammers. Remember that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is! Being scammed online is more common than most of us would like to admit and many of us know others who have been scammed or we have been scammed ourselves.
Remember never give out your Social Security number, bank accounts or any other account numbers.
Taking precautions and not taking risks with your personal information will keep you and your family safer. We hope this helps and if you have any other tips please share them below in the comments. We’re always looking to add more new things that we might’ve missed that can help other people live better lives.
Aunia Kahn, Rise Visible CEO
Aunia Kahn is the CEO of Rise Visible. With 24 years in the field, she is a highly sought after digital marketer, strategist, public speaker and digital influencer. Rise Visible has been named Top-Ranking Woman-Owned Digital Agency by Clutch, Best SEO Agency in Eugene 2022 by Expertise, and is a certified disabled and woman-owned business. She is also an internationally recognized and awarded visual artist, photographer, author who has shown in over 300 exhibitions in over 10 countries; at places such as San Diego Art Institute, iMOCA, and the St. Louis Art Museum. She founded Create for Healing. Aunia also identifies as a disabled business owner surviving and thriving with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (Type 3), Mast Cell Disease, Dysautonomia, and POTS, PTSD, etc.