Today, where the internet plays a crucial role in our daily lives, it is essential to be vigilant and proactive in helping protect yourself from internet fraud. Online scams and fraudulent activities continue to evolve, targeting unsuspecting individuals and causing substantial financial and personal harm.
The Federal Trade Commission released a statement analyzing annual fraud data, reporting that consumers lost nearly $8.8 billion to fraud last year — a 30% increase from the previous year.
Continue reading to learn how help to protect yourself from the dangers of internet fraud.
Common Ways Scammers Target You Online
As technology evolves, scammers are becoming savvier in their methods of obtaining your information. Scams often appear highly realistic, but it is important to watch out for certain key points.
Some of the most popular scams include phishing, social media, dating apps, and charity solicitations.
Phishing is the fraudulent method of sending emails or other messages to entice individuals into revealing personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers.
Social Media and Dating Scams
Due to the complexity of social media, scams can vary in many ways. From account takeovers and fake ads to impersonation accounts, investment scams, and even romance scams, you must be on guard at all times when browsing online.
A common way to detect and identify scammers on social media is by examining their grammar. If the language they are using is confusing, full of spelling errors, and unusually formatted, it’s usually best to stay away.
Receiving random friend or follow requests from someone you thought you were already friends with can be a major red flag. Often, your gut instinct is correct and your friend’s account may have been impersonated. It is best to always check with that individual personally before responding to requests or messages from the account.
Romance scams operate in a similar manner. Scammers use stolen images to lure in innocent people. They are often extremely forward and want to move quickly to texting or messaging apps and may ask for money or help with their financial situation.
Charity scams involve soliciting donations for non-existent or falsely replicated organizations. Scammers often use tactics to get you to donate immediately, preventing you from conducting research on the organization.
Tips to Help Avoid Online Fraud
When it comes to online fraud, consumers are not the only ones at risk. Many businesses and retailers also face email and online fraud.
Luckily, there are numerous safety precautions you can take to help protect yourself.
Check What and Where You Buy
When shopping online, it is important to be aware of what you are buying and where you are buying it from. While scouring the web for discounts, you may come across websites that are not secure, but you should make sure to buy only from secure websites.
Look for the padlock icon in the address bar and double-check that the web address begins with https:// — this indicates that the website is secure and your information is protected.
Use a Credit Card, Not Debit, for Online Shopping
When you are shopping online, it is best to use a credit card rather than a debit card. Credit cards offer more protection against fraud and theft, and they also offer purchase protection if something you buy is damaged or stolen.
Don’t Give Out Personal Information
Keep your personal information personal. When sending emails, it is important not to include personal information. This includes your name, address, phone number, or other information that could identify you.
If you need to include this information, be sure to use a pseudonym or nickname instead. This also applies to sharing your information to someone on social media, a dating app, or website chat rooms.
Update Your Computer Security Software
It is important to keep your computer security software up to date. This helps protect your computer from viruses and other security threats. Make sure to install all updates as soon as they become available.
Create Strong Passwords
Creating strong passwords is essential to protecting your online identity. A strong password is at least 8 characters long and includes a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Never use the same password for multiple sites.
Report Suspicious Activity or Fraud Immediately
If you notice suspicious, fraudulent, or illegal activity, report it to the authorities as soon as possible. This includes suspicious emails, phone calls, or other communication you may receive. By reporting suspicious behavior, you can help protect yourself and others from becoming a victim.
Get Identity Theft Protection
Identity theft is a serious crime that can have long-lasting consequences for victims. That’s why it is important to have identity theft protection. With IdentityIQ, you receive real-time alerts if someone tries to open a new account in your name or attempts to use your personal information to commit fraud.
What to Do if You are a Victim of Online Fraud
If you think you have become a victim of online fraud, it’s important to act immediately. If you’ve already paid a scammer, your money might already be gone. Nevertheless, you can reach out to the company through which you made the payment to see if they can reverse it.
You should also contact your bank to inform them of the fraudulent charge — they can help guide you with the next steps to take. If you sent cash, contact the United States Postal Service immediately so they can intercept the package.
If you gave a scammer your personal information, go to identitytheft.gov to report it to the FTC and get a recovery plan. You should also reset all your passwords that you gave them access to and update all software on your devices to further help protect your personal information.
Scammers can be very convincing, but if you are educated and aware of how to detect a scammer or fraudulent activity, you can help your personal information remain safe.
To stay vigilant, sign up for IdentityIQ identity theft protection services so you can receive real-time alerts if someone uses your information to commit fraudulent activity.