When Sir Tim Berner’s Lee and his team at CERN labs developed the World Wide Web and the internet, he never envisioned that his invention would ever be used to scam people. His vision was to provide a better way for people to communicate across international boundaries using computers and phones.
To demonstrate how his new technology would revolutionize the world, he and his team at CERN’s built the first HTML website which is actually in existence even today. As time went by, web technology improved and this created an “opportunity” for computer hackers and other criminals to scam people.
Since information is readily available on the internet, criminals have found it easier to steal computer files, personal information, credit card information and money from unsuspecting people. How are they able to achieve this? Through online scams.
What you need to know is that criminals around the world are working round the clock to come up with new ways to scam online users.
It’s not just individuals who get scammed but companies too. In 2017, two employees working for Fortune 500 tech firms wired $100 million to a scammer who was actually a phony supplier. In February 2018, IBM’s X-Force Incident Response and Intelligence Services team discovered that Fortune 500 companies were losing millions of dollars to phishing scams made by cyber attackers.
To help you protect yourself against online scams, we have compiled 10 ways on how to avoid scams online.
#1. Stay alert
Today, we spend a better part of the day browsing online. Whether it’s browsing the internet for new products or chatting with family and friends via social media apps, we all do it. To access these services, users must sign up by providing their personal information – name, email address, physical address and phone number among others.
Since companies provide free access to their platforms, they make money by selling your data to ad networks. Ad networks, on the other hand, sell your data to businesses who in turn send email marketing messages. If hackers get hold of your information by hacking your account, they will send emails about fake money-making opportunities to scam you. To avoid being scammed, stay alert.
#2. Protect your smartphone and computer
As I said earlier, computer hackers are working round the clock to steal information from your PC, smartphone, and tablet. To protect yourself and prevent the unauthorized access of your devices, you need to install a firewall, an antivirus software, anti-spam filters, and malware removal tools.
A vast majority of antivirus softwares are bundled with all the above tools – antivirus, firewall, malware removal tool, and anti-spam filters. By using this security software, computer hackers will find it hard to steal your information.
For secure browsing, you can also add a VPN tool like NordVPN.
#3. Guard your online accounts with a strong password
We all have an email account with popular email providers like Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft Outlook. When it comes to social media, we also have an account with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and others.
While these tech companies have set up measures to protect their data centers, it is wise to protect your account. To do so, use an alphanumeric password with more than 8 characters. For hard passwords, use KeePass.
#4. Protect your personal information
Computer hackers don’t just target your email and social media accounts, they also target your personal information which includes your credit card information. This is called identity theft. Simply put, computer hackers are looking for your credit card information so as to steal your money.
They will simply use your credit card information to order items from various online e-commerce sites. In their circles, this is called carding. To protect your personal information, avoid shopping on unsecured online stores. If you suspect your personal information has been stolen, call your bank immediately.
#5. Check your financial statement and credit reports
If you make a point of going through your financial statements, you can discover anomalies such as a purchase you never bought or an Uber ride you never took. It is also important to order for a free credit report every year.
By doing so, you will always be privy to any problems. As a result, you will take preventative measures early such as calling your bank in case you notice something amiss.
#6. Never give out your personal information
Smartphones and tablets have made it easier for computer hackers to scam people. Today, you can receive a text message from a scammer pretending to be the IRS. They will ask you to send your social security number so as to verify tax details. If you do so, they will use your social security number to scam you.
Others will call you pretending to be a bank official and he or she will trick you to provide your bank details in the pretense that your account has been compromised. This is called a phishing scam and the best way to avoid it is to call your bank or the credit card company to confirm your account status.
#7. Avoid bogus pop-up security warnings
When browsing the internet, a bogus pop up warning you that your computer is infected by a virus may appear. The pop up will have a download button and when you click on it, you will be tricked into buying a rogue software.
If the software is free and you get to install it on your computer, it will take control of your device and steal your information. To protect yourself, use a powerful antivirus software like Avira, Kaspersky or BitDefender.
#8. Avoid emails from untrusted sources
On a daily basis, you will receive hundreds of emails from email marketers. Some may originate from real marketers advertising products and services but some may originate from untrusted sources.
Such emails will include hyperlinks to infected websites. If you click on the hyperlink, a trojan or malware will be downloaded into your PC or smartphone. Before you know it, a computer hacker will have access to your device. To prevent these, delete emails from untrusted sources.
#9. Update your software
Every device you own has an operating system. Common operating systems out there include Android, Windows, Mac OS, iOS and Linux. While developers take every precaution to ensure the final product released on the market is free of bugs, there are software versions that come with bugs.
What you need to know is that computer hackers can take advantage of your system if you OS is full of “holes”. OS developers usually release updates to seal such holes and secure your software. If you fail to update your software, your device will be vulnerable to hackers.
To protect your device, update your operating system, your browser, and other software.
#10. Learn their tactics
As an online user, you need to know that there are different types of scams. First, watch out for scams that request you to pay upfront before you claim your prize. Others will ask you to pay using an unsecured method in order to get a job.
If you are asked to provide your personal or credit card information, don’t. Avoid too good to be true offers, for instance, a website asking you to invest a small amount of money in exchange for thousands of dollars in a day as returns.
By learning the tactics used by scammers, you will avoid falling for their trap.
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In this day and age, getting scammed is very easy. To avoid getting scammed, you need to protect yourself. For your PC and smartphone, install a strong antivirus software. When it comes to your social media and email accounts, use a strong password. You can generate a strong password by using software like KeePass.
If someone calls you and informs you that your bank account is compromised, call your bank immediately via their hotline. Avoid installing anti-virus software recommended by pop up ads on your device. You can also install an adblocker like uBlock in your browser to prevent such pop-up ads.
Lastly, never give out your credit card information, social security number or PIN to unknown people.
All the best,
I invite your input. Please feel free to leave a comment below in the space provided.