Online fraud is a serious issue. Millions of people every year fall victim to online fraud scams and many of them don’t realize it until it’s too late. In this digital age, it’s important to protect yourself from online fraud, but with the constantly evolving schemes of fraudsters, what are specific ways you can protect yourself from online fraud?
Tip #1: Don’t click on links in emails or texts from unknown or suspicious senders
Be wary of unsolicited emails or texts from an unknown or suspicious sender. A suspicious sender is someone who claims to be reputable, but something feels off. For example, if you receive a message from an unknown number that claims to be from your bank, but has a misspelling or grammar error in their message, this would be a suspicious sender. Additionally, your bank won’t email or text you with sensitive account alerts or updates.
Fraudsters are known for phishing emails and texts where they can spoof phone numbers, create fake emails, and fake websites, and embed harmful links that can grasp your information or download malware. Do not click on anything in the suspicious text or email. If you are concerned about the content of the message, call the company directly from the number on their actual website, not from the email or text.
Tip #2: Keep your operating system and antivirus software up to date
Even if you practice safety from online fraud, fraudsters can still find a way in if your operating system and antivirus software is not up to date. Fraudsters are finding new ways to infiltrate older model operating systems and by failing to update your systems, you’re keeping the holes that they’ve already found from other victims.
Tip #3: Don’t give your personal information to anyone over the phone or online
You should already know that even your closest friends aren’t going to call you up and ask for your social security number, bank account numbers, and other financial information. However, scammers will pretend to be representatives from a government agency or credit card company in order to collect your personal data and use it for their own gain. If you ever receive an unexpected call from someone asking for this type of information, hang up the phone immediately and contact your bank or credit card company directly to report the suspicious activity.
Tip #4: Change your passwords at least every 90 days and use two-factor authentication
Many people have the same username and password for multiple accounts—sometimes even their bank account. If someone gets your username and password, they also have access to all of your accounts on those sites! Instead, you should use a different username and password for each of your online accounts. Every 90 days or so, change your password to secure your account. This way, if the website has been infiltrated or spidered for information, now that information is out of date.
The next thing you should do is enable two-factor authentication on all accounts that offer it. You’ll get sent a text message with a code every time you log in from a new device, which means even if someone has your password, they won’t be able to get into your account unless they also have your phone in their possession.
Tip #5: Avoid public Wi-Fi hotspots when transferring sensitive data
Online fraud thrives in public Wi-Fi settings. Avoid transferring sensitive data if you’re using a public Wi-Fi connection. When using a public Wi-Fi connection, the messages being sent over the waves can be intercepted and read by fraudsters. Whether you’re submitting a job application with your social security number on it, paying back a friend through Zelle, or simply checking your bank account, do not do this on public Wi-Fi, wait until you have a private and secure connection to transfer this information.
Tip #6: Be careful what you post on social media sites
Websites like Facebook have made it easier than ever for people to share pictures, videos, and other personal information about themselves. This can be good in many ways, but it also keeps us connected to those we may not know personally, which is how scammers gain access to personal information.
Online fraudsters will use information about you that they find on social media to appear more reputable and will use it as a way to manipulate you into sending them money.
For example, a fraudster may create a fake profile of someone living in your hometown, working near where you work, and with your same hobbies to try to start a fake romantic relationship online with you. They’ll pretend you have all of these things in common, but really they’re waiting for you to become comfortable enough with them to send them money.
Tip #7: Monitor your bank and credit card statements closely
Many of these frauds will start with small transactions here and there to make sure you won’t notice, then they’ll start making the larger charges. To reduce the risk of getting defrauded, regularly check your bank accounts for any unusual amounts or charges. If you see something that doesn’t belong there, contact your bank immediately so that they can immediately reverse the charges. Also, never give anyone access to your financial information such as your credit card number, bank account numbers, or Social Security number over the phone or by email unless you initiate the contact. If someone calls you and says that they are calling on behalf of your bank and need this information, hang up! Banks will never ask for this information by phone.
Tip #8: Connect with HTTPS instead of HTTP when you can
HTTP stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol, and it’s basically the language that computers use to send and receive information over the web. HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, which means that your information is encrypted when you use an HTTPS connection. This makes it harder for other people to read your information. It’s like a lock on your front door; nobody can get in unless they have the key (or know how to pick a lock).
Tip #9: Be wary of online ads for “too good to be true” items or services
Fraudsters will tell you that their product or services can do anything if it means they’ll get your money. They’ll tell you their goods are “genuine,” “top quality,” and “guaranteed.” They’ll say that they’ve been doing this for decades when in reality they’ve just set up a new email address or website to sell the same fraud to a new victim. They’ll even claim that their products are from big-name companies or popular stores, like Apple. Don’t fall for it.
Tip #10: Be wary of online shops that don’t accept credit cards
There are so many options for a website to set up online credit card payments that are free and easy to install. Why would an online company, in this digital age, not accept online payments? If someone claims that their online store only accepts wire payments, Zelle, gift cards, or other non-traditional methods of online payment, this is an immediate red flag.
If you’re vigilant, you should be able to spot any attempts of online fraud and cybercrime and keep yourself protected. Don’t be afraid to take steps to protect yourself, even if it seems like an inconvenience in your life. These crimes are commonplace and real, but you can overcome them with the right level of caution. The best way to keep yourself safe from online fraud is to stay vigilant and present in your online life and communications.