Modern technology makes communicating, shopping, learning, and more much faster and easier than we could have ever imagined. However, what seems to be a routine email, simple phone call, or a great online deal could actually be a scam that costs you big time. Inform yourself about online security to protect your personal information.
One scam to beware of is phishing. Phishing is when you get a text, email, or call from what seems to be a company you know. In actuality, this is a scam trying to steal your personal information. The message often requires you to update your billing or personal information and includes instructions or a link for you to click. Most often, this link will install harmful software on your device that can put your security at risk. The best way to determine if a message is legitimate or phony is to check your account with that company. If the instructions or link redirect you to another site and ask you to put in personal information, stop the process and call the company directly.
Other potential online scams include online contests, free trials, or any deal that seems too good to be true.
When browsing online, you may receive a pop-up message that says you have won a gift card or free trip, and tells you to provide some information in order to receive it. Do not give out any of your personal or financial information, as this has a very high chance of being a scam. It’s better to be safe than sorry: You can always call the company it claims to be from directly and inquire if it is real or not.
Many companies offer free online trials for their services, which can be a good way for you to try out a service before fully committing to purchasing it. However, read the fine print before you sign up for a free trial. They often require your personal and financial information and will automatically charge you when the free trial expires. Make sure there is an easy way to cancel your account when the free trial ends so that you don’t end up paying for a service you don’t use without realizing it.
Be wary of any deal promoted to you on the internet, phone, email, or text that asks for any of your personal or financial information. If the message is vague, from an unknown company, or seems out of the blue, it is likely a scam.
Rules to Live By
Information over the phone
Do not provide any personal information or credit card information online or over the phone unless you are sure it is going to someone you trust. This includes your name, address, phone number, email, social security number, credit card information, or any other private information. Scammers can make calls and emails look like they are coming from companies or people that you know, but it may not actually be them.
If you’re asked to supply personal information or money over the phone, it is probably not legitimate. Call the company directly using a number you know is theirs, so that you can verify it is not a scam. If you are initiating the action of giving out information, such as online shopping or giving an online donation, you are more likely to be safe. If you are getting a request and have not initiated the contact, protect yourself and triple check that the request is legitimate before sharing information or clicking on any links.
When you are sharing info online, make sure it is on a private network. Do not share any personal or private information on public sites such as social media or online forums. Don’t give out any information if you are using public WiFi (such as in a coffee shop). It is very easy for your information to be stolen if you are not using a private network.
Additionally, always make sure that your software and operating systems are up to date on your devices. These often include important security updates that can help prevent scams and cyber-attacks from reaching you in the first place. When you are giving out information online, make sure your browser is secure by looking for a lock icon next to the URL. The lock icon means your information is encrypted and more likely to stay secure. Make sure that all of your passwords are very strong and hard to crack. Don’t use any names, birthdays, or words that could be easy to guess.
Don’t fall prey to scams aimed at stealing your personal and financial information. Protect yourself by always staying informed and cautious, and only give out information when you are certain it is to a trusted source.