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Recognizing online scams

Many of us are still relatively new and inexperienced when it comes to computers and the internet. And that can leave us open to being deceived by online scams. Read on to learn more about protecting yourself from cyber crime.

Woman on the computer

Phishing scams

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police defines “phishing” as any form of email, text message or website designed to look as though it comes from a reliable source so as to attain personal or financial information. For example, you receive an email from “your bank,” warning that your account may have been compromised and you must input your credit or debit card information to avoid it being shut down. The email may have realistic-looking logos and even direct you to the actual website or a copycat version, from which they then garner your financial information, which they can sell to criminals who are eager to drain your finances. To be safe, if you receive an email from your financial institution or other trusted business, call them and ask about it.

Deposits or fees to unknown sources

If you are looking to make a purchase or to get a loan through an online source, be careful! You should never have to make a deposit without seeing the product or pay a fee in advance to guarantee your loan. Sending money to these types of sources will almost certainly end in your losing your payment and having nothing to show for it.

Auction fraud

PC World reports that 75 per cent of all complaints registered with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center involve online auction fraud. Auction fraud occurs when a scammer sells a fake product online as a way to get your personal or financial information or to simply to collect payment for a non-existent product. Unfortunately because so many deals can be found online, shoppers are often fooled into thinking they have stumbled across a superb discount. If you’re involved with an online auction, be smart about it. Check out the auction site’s recommendations for savvy buying so you know what is advisable. Legitimate merchants tend to post a lot of personal information about themselves and typically have plenty of positive reviews to back them up. As a general rule, if an offer seems impossibly good, you’re probably better off steering clear.

Virus attacks

Virus attacks can come in many forms and inflict varying degrees of damage. But the bottom line is that you don’t want them happening to you. A virus attack can lead to anything from loss of information, to identity theft, to even the complete annihilation of your computer. To protect yourself, make sure your anti-virus software is up-to-date and your firewalls are enabled. Also, avoid opening emails from unknown senders and clicking on pop-up ads. Generally speaking, if you don’t know what something does or a where a link will lead, avoid it. It is better to ensure the safety of your personal information and finances than to risk it all for an improbable “trip for four to Jamaica.”

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