How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Online Fraud

It can be harder to know how to avoid becoming a victim of online fraud than protecting your own home from thieves. Thieves you can see. Online predators are “invisible” threats who can attack you in more ways than one.

But, just like you can make your home more secure from thieves, there are certain steps you can take to help make your online experiences safer.

1. Create Safe Passwords
A huge mistake many Internet users make is using a password that can easily be figured out by a hacker. Using your name, birthdate, social security number, address, or parts of this information doesn’t make a secure password. According to VeriSign, your password should be at least six characters in length. The safest passwords are a combination of letters, numbers, symbols, and punctuation marks.

For added security, create a new password for every account you have. Don’t
give your password to friends or family members to use. And, don’t make a list of your Internet passwords and leave it lying around in plain sight. Protecting your passwords can effectively help you from becoming a victim of online fraud.

2. Using the Safest Method of Payment
When you’re shopping online, you may think that *not* using your credit card to
pay for your purchases is the safest method of payment. You may think that by paying with a personal check or a money order, you’re protecting your credit card information. But, if you pay with anything but a credit card, if the merchant is a scammer, you have no legal recourse to get your money back.

On the other hand, use your credit card and the law will protect you so that you can only be held liable for a maximum of $50 of any fraudulent charges made on your account. If you use your debit card, your liability by law rises to $500 if you’re slow at reporting the fraudulent charge. Let 60 days elapse, and you might as well kiss your claim that you didn’t make the charge goodbye.

3. Don’t Take Any Phishing Trips
How many times have you received “official looking” emails that are supposedly from online companies like eBay, Paypal, Citibank, Chase Bank, and so on? More importantly, how many times have you answered these emails and inadvertently given phishers your personal information? If you did it just once, you’ve probably already become a victim of online fraud. In 2004 alone, phishing scams cost financial institutions over one billion dollars in losses.

So, how can you avoid becoming a victim of online fraud when it comes to phishing scams? Keep in mind that lawful online companies you deal with won’t send you emails asking for your personal information. Don’t respond to “phishy” looking emails- delete them instead!

4. Only Deal With Secure Websites
Every website on the Internet that you share any type of personal information with should be a “secure” site. According to the University Information Technology Services at Indiana University, “A secure web site uses encryption and authentication standards to protect the confidentiality of web transactions.” It’s real easy to tell if a site is secure. Just look at the URL of the web page you’re on. If you see a padlock icon at the bottom of the page, then you can be sure your online transaction is going to be safe. Also, look at the URL of the site. If it begins with “https://” instead of the typical
“http://”, then your personal information will probably be safe from hackers.

5. Keep Your Security Up-to-Date
Use a firewall that will keep hackers from gaining access to your computer when you’re logged onto the Internet. Install virus protection software that scans both incoming and outgoing information. The best virus protection will immediately signal you anytime it detects a virus. It will also remove the virus so your computer will stay safe and not be infested.

Periodically- at least once a month- check for updates for your computer security. Hackers are constantly finding new ways to break into other people’s computers. And, new viruses are being released all the time. You can have the best security protection, but if you fail to keep it up-to-date, then it can’t protect your computer at the maximum level.

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