Fraud is a crime that takes a significant emotional and financial toll on victims. It’s critical to recognize and avoid it, especially in today’s economy. While fraud is committed in various forms and to various degrees, it all has something in common: a criminal’s intent to steal from you.
Victims of fraud may be left feeling violated, angry, and frustrated with their lack of awareness.
The best way to avoid being victimized by fraud is prevention – not only can aware citizens avoid becoming victims themselves, but they also have the opportunity to help others steer clear of scammers.
The following are eight easy ways that consumers can protect themselves from fraud.
Don’t Send Money to Unsolicited Contacts
If you didn’t ask for a product or service, don’t pay for it. It’s an easy rule to remember and one that will protect you from falling victim to a scam that could result in losing your hard-earned money. Furthermore, have the courtesy to decline offers you don’t want. Some scammers use scamming techniques to gain your trust, such as those who conduct telephone surveys and send emails that seem too good to be true. The best way to protect yourself is to stay away from unsolicited contact and avoid responding to these types of messages.
Watch Out for Online Shopping Malls
You don’t have to buy from the mall, but today’s online marketplaces can be a great place to find deals. However, you may still want to shop in stores where you’re familiar with the staff and area. You should also be wary of purchase offers that are too good to be true or promises for free or discounted products plus services that seem too good to be true – like money-back guarantees, frequent flyer miles if you pay with a credit card, and more. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau or state attorney general if you see a scam on a website.
Watch Out for Phishing Scams
The word phishing has been around since the mid-1990s, but this type of Internet fraud is still common: Cyber criminals send you emails that appear to be from your bank or credit card companies and direct you to a website that looks legitimate. Then, they’ll ask you for your login or account numbers and personal information so they can “verify” your account. Some phishing scams look like they’re from your bank or credit card company, while others masquerade as websites that you think are legitimate.
Don’t Respond to Job Offers Without Checking Them Out First
Although some employers and recruiters use email to get in touch with their candidates, few send out their messages without more information about whom they’re calling for an interview or applying for the job. A legitimate organization will not claim to be conducting a “National Recruitment Drive” or “Worldwide Job Fair” looking for people with specific skills. Additionally, if the employer knows a little about you, they may even know that you’re not looking for work.
Don’t Pay for Online Surveys
Online scams have capitalized on survey companies that offer “free” and sometimes paid opportunities to collect data. The information you provide will be used to set up an account and send you something that looks like a paid survey or an invitation to take a test of some sort – but something is missing from the equation. Moreover, some scammers are savvy enough to use personal data that they’ve culled from social networking sites. Scammers also create fake websites designed to look like the sites of reputable companies. Whatever the website looks like, please don’t believe it or trust it unless you’ve researched it properly. The scammers will ask for your personal information. You shouldn’t be surprised if you never hear from anyone again after completing the survey or if the survey never arrives in your email inbox.
Watch Out for Emails From Business Tycoons and Famous People
If you get a message from someone who isn’t who they say they are or who asks for money for charity, don’t respond. Chances are they’re sending you a scam. It would be best if you also were wary of emails from political or religious groups since they could be scams. Furthermore, scammers capitalize on the names of famous people, including politicians and celebrities, to increase their credibility. For example, tycoons don’t ‘ send out messages requesting donations for causes – or they’ll ask for money to pay their bills and buy Christmas presents for their children.
Protect Your Computer
It’s important to protect your computer so you can keep track of any incoming emails or programs that might be dangerous. You should also be aware of what you’re downloading onto your computer since some files may contain viruses that can infect your system. Lastly, you need to update your antivirus software and install a firewall on your computer – especially if you work at home. Finally, ensure your connections are secure, and you’ll be less likely to let a cyber criminal in.
Protect Your Identity
Creating an identity theft protection service is a good way to protect your information from getting into the wrong hands. You probably won’t be able to stop identity theft, but at least you can put controls in place that will help you monitor and prevent it from happening again. Keep your passwords and PINs safe – but don’t rely on them.
Financial and sensitive information should never be sent via email. Instead, you should use the postal service or a courier to send such information. Create strong passwords and make sure they’re not easily guessable – creating a password that will be easier to remember and harder to guess is a good way to keep your information safer. If you need help, a small Internet search can offer many privacy and security tips.
The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that it is not difficult to avoid falling prey to phishing scams, but you do need to keep your eyes open and contact lawyers for frauds in case you fall prey. Phishing and other cyber crimes continue to be a problem for consumers and businesses. Therefore, it would be best if you stayed vigilant since fraud and other cyber crimes aren’t going to disappear anytime soon.