As the popularity of shopping and working online increases, more and more people have been exposed to fraudulent emails and online scams.
Often cleverly disguised as a person’s bank, mortgage lender or even a credit card company, such scams are never as obvious as one would assume and as a result, identity theft is on the rise online. Such scams can allow thieves access to your credit information, your identity and other sensitive information, enabling them to take out lines of credit in your name or to open fraudulent accounts. Either way, it can be a very costly scam to fall victim to.
If you are one of the millions of people who spends time online, you are probably more savvy to such frauds and have an idea of which emails to avoid and which links to not click on to.
If you are a person who is less experienced with all things internet based, here are a few tips to avoid your identity being stolen while you browse the web. If you have questions or concerns, you may want to contact an experienced internet fraud lawyer.
Remember that phishing websites are like phishing emails- they never announce that they are looking for your information, and will typically pose as a legitimate business with reviews, passwords and a secure site address.
As many banks send emails to alert their customers that they never ask for account information, if a website asks you for your social security number, a credit card number or any sensitive information which could be used to take out a loan, leave the site immediately and report it to your internet provider.
Change your passwords
One key way to keep scammers away is to change your online passwords periodically.
If you have an online email address, shopping account with an internet site like Amazon or regularly use a secure site to monitor your credit card statements, change the passwords every few months or, better yet, use a heavily encrypted password for each site and ensure that each one is different.
Hackers and scammers know that the majority of people use the same or similar passwords across a myriad of sites, so changing your passwords regularly can keep you safe.
Use reputable sites
While this sounds obvious enough, the internet is full of sites which are less than a day old and so, it is wise to know how to identify secure or reputable sites when shopping online.
When making a purchase, you want to ensure that the webpage you are using will not sell your information to a third party- one way to avoid this is to run any unfamiliar websites through a transparency browser, such as Google’s, to alert you to any issues in the security of the site.
Also, look at the domain name- similar to phishing emails, many phishing sites use names similar to a well known brand, but use a slightly different spelling.
In the world of online purchases, many websites will either allow you to pay via credit or debit card, or other platforms like PayPal- if a website wants you to pay for a product using a bank transfer, walk away quickly and report the site to your internet provider.
As obvious as it sounds, never divulge personal information online unless you are absolutely certain that the person on the other end is the friend or family member that they say they are, especially if you are sending information via social media platforms.
No bank account numbers, no credit card numbers and certainly no information about your current address or date of birth. Be vigilant.
Secure your network
It happens to the best of us- we need an internet signal and so we use an unknown network while out and about.
The problem with using unsecured networks (ones that require no password to use), is that this is a great way for scammers to access your information. If you must use an unsecured network while out and about, NEVER make a purchase- nothing in life is that urgent.
Similarly, it is wise to ensure that your own internet network is secure with an encrypted password. As you have almost certainly made a purchase using your own computer at some point, leaving the network open for anyone to use can allow thieves access to that all too sensitive information and put you at risk of identity theft.
To summarize, it is better to be safe than sorry in the world of online purchases. If you find that any of your information has been stolen, contact your internet provider, your credit card provider and your bank to inform them and to freeze any accounts temporarily.
Remember, thieves are everywhere and they won’t think twice about taking your life savings from you, so it is best to be vigilant.