Avoiding Online Scams in the Digital Age
- Pete Boergermann
We seem to hear about a new online scam nearly every week. While the internet has changed the world for the better in many ways, there is a downside. Online scams are still widely prevalent, and despite the misconception that they are primarily a concern for senior citizens, a recent study by the FTC™ found that more millennials than retirees are now getting scammed out of money online.
At C&N, protecting your money and personal information is a top priority. That’s why we’ve outlined how to spot the latest online scams and how you can protect yourself with these internet safety tips.
The Better Business Bureau® warns about online fraud happening within Facebook™. It starts with a “friend or relative” who contacts you through Facebook saying you are entitled to free money. These can come from fake profiles or hacked accounts. The catch? You need to pay up front for shipping or processing or provide other sensitive information that can be used for identity theft.
Follow these tips to avoid a Facebook hack or scam:
- Don’t give out your password (and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts)
- Avoid accepting unknown friend requests
- Use a secured network, not public Wi-Fi, when signing into any accounts (especially your bank account)
- Keep apps, browsers and antivirus software updated
The old phrase “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” certainly applies to shopping online. Fake shopping websites have been popping up lately, aiming to scam you out of your hard-earned money. Pay attention to these red flags, which will help tip you off to a fake website or online store:
- Bad English and/or poor website design
- Super-low prices that seem too good to be true
- Bootleg logo, store name and/or URL (e.g. “you-pay-less-4-mac-stuff.com” or a site with a URL that’s one or two letters off from a legitimate domain)
- Inability to accept credit or debit card payments
- Reviews that sound suspicious or inauthentic
- If you are wary of a fake site, run it through Google’s™ Transparency tool or the BBB’s Scam TrackerSM
- Only purchase items online using a secured network
- Check to be sure the web address begins with “https,” indicating your personal and payment information is encrypted
- Use two-factor authentication for paying online
Texting scams, or “smishing”
You’re likely familiar with phishing scams—fake emails that look to be sent from legitimate companies—but have you heard of a similar tactic called smishing? Smishing scams involve fraudulent text messages that seem urgent and indicate something is wrong. These messages prompt you to click a link, send sensitive personal information or reply to the text to resolve a serious situation. They may also promise free gifts or offers in exchange for personal information. So how should you handle to a text message you think may be spam?
- Don’t reply or click any links
- Call the company directly if you suspect the text may not be real (use the phone number on its real site)
- Delete the text
Make money online scams
Some of the biggest categories of online scams are ones that promise you can make easy money online or from home by doing little work. Here are a few to watch out for:
- Work-from-home scams: There are number of ways to make money online but also a lot of traps, as listed by The Penny Hoarder™. Watch out for jobs that require you to pay in order to start work and those that sound too good to be true.
- Cryptocurrency accounts: These scams offer you bank accounts to deposit your bitcoin or other cryptocurrency, with promises of doubling or tripling your money.
- Generate passive income with our system: This scam sells you a “proven system” to help you become an overnight financial success. Typically, these are loaded with fake testimonials and bogus information.
Online dating or romance scams
If you’ve heard of “catfishing,” you can imagine what this breed of scamming is all about. In this increasingly popular online scam, a fraudster preys on vulnerable people seeking a romantic connection to lure them into draining their bank accounts.
Online dating scammers often fool their victims into falling in love with them by using information posted in the victims’ dating or social media profiles. Romance scammers try to quickly woo their targets and move the conversation to a private channel, like over the phone. Then, suddenly, something horrible happens. This could involve a lost job, a family member ending up in the hospital or someone dying—which is when the fraudster will ask for money or gifts.
Consider these tips and others from the FTC to avoid falling for a romance scam:
- Don’t give money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in real life
- Be careful what you post online and avoid sending photos of yourself, which can be used for blackmail
- Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile to see if he/she may be using a stolen photo
- Talk to someone you trust and pay attention if friends and family are concerned
How to report a scammer
Do you think you or someone you know is getting scammed? Here’s how to report a scammer and form a paper trail of evidence against fraudsters:
When it comes to protecting yourself online, knowledge is power. Learn more about how to protect yourself from online criminals and keep your information safe online.
Pete Boergermann joined C&N in 1998. In his role as the Director of Information Security, he is responsible for managing the information security program at C&N, while also championing IT security to make it a critical part of C&N’s business operations. Pete has previously served as Information Technology Manager/Information Security Officer.
A United States Air Force Veteran, Pete graduated from the BAI Graduate School of Bank Operations through Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management in 2006 and completed the Pennsylvania Bankers Association’s (PBA) School of Banking in 2009. He earned his credentials as a Certified Information Executive from USC Upstate Campus’s Institute for CIO Excellence in 2016. He also puts his expertise to valuable use as a member of the PBA IT Technology Committee and Chair of the PBA Cyber Sub-committee.
In his spare time, Pete serves as a School Board Member of New Covent Academy and as an Elder at the Church of the New Covent and volunteers for Susquehannock Trail Performance Rally and the Annual Laurel Classic Mountain Bike Challenge. He lives in Wellsboro with his wife, Cassie, and has three daughters, Alyssa, Joy and Mikaela.