10 Ways to Avoid Scams Online

By Christine Trimbur

There are thousands and thousands of new scams that pop up every year. There are so many that it is simply impossible to keep up with them all. But, if you remember these 10 simple things, you will avoid most scams out there which will protect you and your family.

1. Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person. Really don’t send any money if they ask for a wire transfer, a gift card, or a prepaid debit card as these can’t be traced and are treated like cash.

2. Never open attachments or click on links from unsolicited email. Links are often embedded with malware that will wreak havoc on your computer.

3. Seeing shouldn’t necessarily mean believing. Scammers are fantastic mimickers and put a lot of effort into being sure that fonts, seals, and other details are identical to the real thing. Even caller ID can be faked. Be sure to check it out.

4. Only buy online if the transaction is secure. Look for the “https” in the URL (the extra s means it’s “secure”) and the small lock icon in the website address bar. And for added security, use bbb.org to check the company out before purchasing anything. Read reviews to be sure you’re not getting cheap and/or counterfeit items.

5. Be very cautious when dealing with someone you met online. Scammers utilize dating websites, social media, Craigslist, and other sites to locate potential targets. They will quickly become your friend, but unfortunately, that is part of the scam in order to get you to trust them.

6. Don’t share personally identifiable information with unsolicited contacts. This includes phone calls, email, social media, and your front door. Be careful with your banking and credit card information, Social Security Number, and your birthdate.

7. Never feel that you have to act immediately. Scammers usually try to make you think that something is a limited time offer or is scarce. That want you to act before you have time to think or talk with a family member or financial advisor. It’s never a good idea to make important decisions quickly.

8. Use traceable, secure transactions when paying for services, goods, debts, and taxes. Never pay by prepaid money card, gift card, wire transfer, or other non-traditional payment method. Always decline cash-only deals, high upfront payments, overpayments, high pressure sales tactics, and handshake deals that don’t include a contract.

9. Use local businesses whenever possible. Check to be sure they have proper identification, licensing and insurance. This is especially important when using contractors who will be working in your home and anyone handling your money or sensitive information. Look them up at bbb.org to see what others have experienced.

10. Be careful with the information you share on social media. Consider connecting only with people you already know. Utilize security settings on all social media and online accounts. Scammers get a lot of information about their targets from online interactions and can then use that information to seem like a friend.

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