When shopping, banking, or doing other things online, it's necessary to protect yourself from fraudsters and scammers who may look to trick you out of your personal information or money. You can do a few things to safeguard yourself from these criminals, including being wary of requests for cash and personal or financial information and being careful about links or attachments in emails or texts.
Here are some safety precautions to take when using the internet:
Be skeptical of any request for money or personal information: Legitimate companies will not ask you to send money or provide sensitive information via email or text, so be very wary of any such requests. If you receive a suspicious email or text, do not respond and instead report it to the company or institution in question—the bigger the offer, the more likely it could be a scam.
Be cautious of links and attachments: Hacking a scammer isn’t easy. Scammers may trick you into opening dangerous links or downloading malicious files through emails or texts. Always exercise caution before clicking a link or opening an attachment, even if it appears to be from a trusted sender. Be wary of familiar-looking email addresses that may be looking to entrap you.
Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication: Create strong, unique passwords for all of your accounts, and enable two-factor authentication if it's offered. When using this method, you'll need to provide a code from your phone in addition to your password when logging in. Never duplicate a password either. Repeating passwords is a surefire way to allow scammers access to your personal files.
Be aware of phishing scams: Phishing scams are attempts by criminals to trick you into providing personal or financial information by impersonating a trusted entity in an email or text. Be suspicious of any messages from unknown senders or ask you to click on a link or download an attachment. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Keep your software up to date: Out-of-date software can leave you open to attack, so keep all of your programs and apps up to date. This includes your operating system, web browser, plugins or add-ons, and any security software. Ensuring your software is up to date is one of the easiest ways to ensure you stay safe online.
Use a secure connection: When you're doing things online that involve personal or financial information, be sure to use a secure connection. Look for "https" at the beginning of a website's address and a closed lock icon in your web browser. This means that the site uses encryption to protect your information, which can help prevent criminals from stealing your data.
Avoid public Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fi networks are often not secure, which means your personal information could be at risk. If you need to use public Wi-Fi, avoid doing things like online banking or shopping and log out of any accounts you're logged into.
Monitor your accounts: Keep an eye on your bank and credit card statements for any suspicious activity. If you see something that you don't recognize, report it to your financial institution right away, and change your account passwords to protect yourself from any potential fallout.
Beware of imposters: Scammers may try to impersonate a company or individual to trick you into giving them money or personal information. Be sure to verify the identity of anyone who contacts you before giving them anything, and never send money to someone you don't know.
Know who you're dealing with: When you're shopping online, be sure to only buy from reputable retailers. If you're not familiar with a company, do some research to ensure it's legitimate, and avoid making any purchases or providing financial information to sellers that you're not 100% sure of. Consult online reviews and the Better Business Bureau for more information before clicking send.
Don't let emotions cloud your judgment: Be careful of scammers who try to take advantage of your emotions. They may try to use things like fear or urgency to get you to act quickly and make a wrong decision. Stay calm, think critically, and don't let your emotions override your better judgment.
If you think you've been a victim of fraud: If you feel you've been scammed, contact your financial institution or the company that the scammer was impersonating right away. You should also report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission and your local police department.
The best defense against fraudsters and scammers is to educate yourself about their tactics and be aware of the warning signs. By knowing what to look for, you can protect yourself and your money from becoming a victim of fraud.