In this day and age of vanishing privacy, feeling secure online seems like something you need a Ph.D. for. Everyone is asking for your data, cookies, personal information and more. Scams are looming over the everyday citizen of the internet and they’ve even made it into the newest of social media. This is no longer the days of email from the Prince of Nigeria. The scammers today are smarter than ever. Before you throw in the towel on your web surfing habits let me give you some good news– there are things you can absolutely do! Here are a few of the best tips for avoiding a scam online.
Watch For The Warning Signs
Remember our good friend the Nigerian Prince? You’d get an email promising large sums of money if you do a simple favor. Well, that’s your first red flag– large sums of money. If you were to win a lottery or be granted some large assets, you’d be getting an email or more likely a call from some lawyers who you could meet in person, not an email asking for some of your information.
An email like this is called a phishing email and no doubt you’ve heard of it before. This is an email pretending to be from a real individual, company and of course a Prince, to get information out of you. Second warning sign– they’re asking for your personal information. Listen, if you get an email from a bank and they “forgot” your social security number, then stay away.
These days scammers are getting very good and more creative. The other day I got an email for an offer at Best Buy. It looked exactly like their email– from their logos to their fonts and color scheme. Except when I looked at the email address, it came from 8220;BestBuy at TechShopper”. Now, last I checked, Best Buy’s websites and email weren’t associated with something called TechShopper. There’s your third warning sign– unofficial domains. Everything in a scam email can be modified to look nearly identical to what the real company would send yet the domain will rarely be the real one. Do your due diligence and watch for those scam domains.
Don’t Give Out Personal Information
Okay, this piece of advice is as old as scams themselves. Don’t give out personal information. Except there’s a problem– we’re an increasingly digital culture and most of us have plenty of personal information online. Apply for a credit card, loan or mortgage and most likely part of this will be done online with personal information galore. Want to get a sweet deal from Amazon? Please enter and save your credit card information first.
There is a myriad of sites that will ask for some level of personal information and some try to get as much as they can. News flash– nothing in this world is 100% secure, especially the internet. So, if everything is privy to a hack, how do you keep the risk low? Only share the minimum information required and only on reputable, trusted sites. Sure, Amazon needs an address, credit card, and a few other details, but we know it’s an established site with good security. The great deal for an InstantPot for $15.99 on GreatShopperDeals? Probably not so reputable. It’s hard not to give out personal information when it’s required at every turn, so just be cautious to whom you’re giving it. Check the reputation of the site first, then proceed. Remember, nothing online is completely safe.
Use Your Tools
Let’s say you took all the proactive steps. You’re diligent about giving out your personal information. You’re careful with scam email. You even watch out on social media. Are you still vulnerable to malware, viruses, or even companies that can sell your browsing histories? Yes, you are. To reduce the exposure to malware you should have an antivirus program to scan for bugs. When it comes to malware and viruses, everything from a simple download to an email attachment is a potential carrier. Get a good piece of security software. It’s like getting a good doctor for your computer. Don’t forget to update often and set a regular schedule for your virus scans.
So, what about all the talk about privacy? Companies, governments, and even individuals can access your browsing histories, IP addresses and gain access to your information. There’s yet another tool that may come to the rescue– the VPN. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. With a VPN your internet connection connects through a private network to the public network. This adds to privacy, security and gives you more control over your network connection. Some VPNs even offer a level of encryption. Hackers, companies, and governments will have a harder time accessing your connection on this private network. Your privacy is increased and as a bonus, you can avoid censorship if that’s a concern in your country.
While this is by no means a foolproof guide, with these few tips you’ll find yourself well-equipped in the modern world of internet scams. They may be around every corner but you now have the tools to see scams coming and avoid falling into their trap. Say goodbye to the Prince of Nigeria and hello to the feeling of security online.