Don't Get Conned Online

Everybody thinks they are too savvy to be caught out by cybercrime, but online criminals are getting smarter and their scams are becoming more convincing. Online fraudsters are using email, web sites, chat rooms, message boards and many other outlets to catch unsuspecting people.

avoid online scams

That is why caution is the most important characteristic you should demonstrate when online. Remember simple premises, such as if something sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

If you didn’t enter the Spanish lottery, you probably haven’t won it and it is highly unlikely you are the descendant of a Nigerian Prince.

Unfortunately not every scam is as easy to spot as those ones, but following these simple steps will prepare you for the ongoing battle.


1. Don’t click a link from an email

A real bank or a reputable financial institution will not ask you to click a link in order to verify your account, reset your password information or to login to anything. If you’ve got an email which is asking you to do this, then chances are someone is after your sensitive personal information and your MONEY.

Simply bookmark your bank’s web address and use this to login whenever you need to. Alternatively, you can manually type the web address into the browser.

These are both legitimate options, but do not ever click an email link which requires further account information.


2. Use Strong Passwords

This may seem like an obvious solution, but you would not believe how many people get caught out by having their password set as “guest” or “password123.” When setting passwords try to avoid obvious answers such as your spouse or children’s name, obvious words and team names.

These are a hackers dream come true. Set a secure password by using a mixture of symbols, numbers and regular letters. Even if your password is tough, you can still be caught out.

Security questions for lost passwords are also important. They should be difficult to guess and the answer should be something very few people know. You should also not share your passwords with anyone and change them from time-to-time to prevent being hacked.


3. Don’t reply to messages asking for personal or financial information.

You wouldn’t give a guy you didn’t recognise on the street your personal information, so don’t do it online. Crooks are lurking behind every corner and they are becoming more and more civilised with their thieving techniques.

If you get a message asking for personal information or your financial details, simply do not reply. Because if you do, your bank account could have a far lower amount in it at the end of the month.


4. Make sure you have a secure link

Shopping online is great. Heck, I do it myself all the time, but you should be aware that this is one of the most popular ways for criminals to steal your money.

One way to avoid being caught is to ensure you have a secure link. You can check your link is secure by viewing the browser frame – if there is a padlock that is a good sign.

Check the padlock is not on the page itself, as this is a tactic used by many scammers. You can also check the web address begins with ‘https://’ as the ‘s’ stands for secure. If unsure, act on the side of caution and don’t enter your details.


5. Read your monthly statements.

Many web surfers are caught out by just not being vigilant. Scammers will try to bill you for things which you never agreed to and if you’re not careful, it can take an age before you notice.

Read your monthly bills and if there is something on them which you didn’t agree to or don’t recognise, then call your bank or financial institution immediately.


6. When giving to charity, be vigilant

Believe it or not, some criminals are so devious they try to steal money in the name of the charity. There have been several high profile cases recently and it is heart rendering as the people being caught out are the same people who are just trying to help. Not to mention the poor charity which is not receiving much needed funds.

Cartoon man with a magnifying glass

In the aftermath of a disaster it is better to give to established charities as pop-up charities rarely have the infrastructure to get to the heart of the problem. Most importantly, you should check the organisation is a registered charity before giving.


7. Be careful with email attachments

If you are considering opening an email attachment, you should know for certain the source of the mail. One example, the Melissa virus, spread because it sprung from familiar addresses and was distributed maliciously. If unsure, it is better to check than to be caught out.

If you have no other choice and you must open the attachment before you can verify it, then download the document and scan it for viruses before opening it. For additional protection, you can turn off your internet before you open the file.


8. Never login to your financial account from unknown network

There are simple software applications which record keystrokes, so logging into your online bank account when using a public computer is never a good idea. So wait until you get home from the library or internet café before you pay that bill.

Even public WiFi can be dangerous. Check the browsers lock icon, to see if your connection is secure.


Generally speaking, you should be wary of any websites you do not know, particularly if they are promising you money, good health or the solution to all of your problems.

If you have been on the receiving end of a scam, you should contact your financial institution immediately. If money is missing from your account, you should also contact your local police.

Remember the golden rule: anything that looks too good to be true usually is.