Smarter Online Presence


2024 is the 20th anniversary of the Fraud Prevention Month initiative. Unfortunately, with the world going digital, the instances of fraud and the amount of money people have lost over the last few years are higher than ever. It’s likely impossible to entirely prevent scams from happening, but with a couple of strategies and a healthy dose of skepticism, each of us can ensure that we are making smart decisions online and not falling victim to this unnecessary evil.

Don’t Click on the Link

Links and QR codes are a common tool of scammers. While a link may seem like a normal part of online browsing, it can be altered to trigger malware, which can harvest your personal and private information. Don’t click on links if you don’t know or trust the source, and don’t share links from unreliable sources, as this can perpetuate the scam.

One way to avoid these malicious phishing links is to be cautious of spam emails. Some spam messages are easier to spot than others, but a couple of good rules of thumb are:

1. If you don’t remember subscribing to their mailing list, you probably didn’t. Companies collecting personal data will sell it to others who reach out without a genuine “subscription.”

2. If the subject or greeting has your email address instead of your name, it’s best to avoid opening it. Opening these automated emails can mark your account as “live” and lead to even more fake messages in the future.

Instead of opening these messages, you can block the sender to prevent their future scams from showing up in your inbox.

Don’t Trust Everyone You Meet Online

Social media has made it possible to connect with people worldwide, but that doesn’t mean everyone we meet is trustworthy. Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know – they could be connecting to collect the information on your profile or even copy it to run a phishing scam on your friends list.

When it comes to buying things from social media, it’s always a good idea to visit the website yourself rather than clicking on a link in an ad to ensure you’re going to the right place. If you’re using an online marketplace to buy or sell items, be cautious that you aren’t being taken advantage of and don’t prepay for something, especially if you don’t trust them. It’s always better to pay more for something from a trusted site than get a deal that’s never delivered or is nothing like what you ordered.

Watch out for Fake Reviews

Fake reviews can be used to lure you into purchasing something you don’t actually want. Often, fake reviews will push you toward discounted items that end up being of a lower quality than you were expecting or may never arrive. Fake reviews can be difficult to identify, but a good strategy is to check out the 2, 3, and 4-star reviews on an item to see their feedback, rather than 5-star reviews. If you notice a lot of fake reviews on an item, it might be best to avoid it.

Too Good to be True Probably Is

In the world of online shopping and data, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Huge discounts on items and incredible opportunities you find on social media or popping up in your email are rarely as impressive as they seem at first glance. Scammers can use these ploys to target you for malware or even tag you as a future target for a seemingly unrelated scam in the future. Even if the deal is genuine, the quality of items can be much lower than expected. With these too-good-to-be-true scams, there is often a sense of urgency – “only a few more hours for 90% of brand names!” Don’t let yourself be pressured into making a purchase you don’t need or aren’t comfortable with.

In the world of online shopping and browsing, there is one rule that you never want to forget: trust your gut. Scams and fraud are constantly changing and evolving. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t take the chance. The opportunity to save a bit of money online isn’t worth having your identity stolen or losing everything you spent when the item never arrives. This Fraud Prevention Month, be cautious of what you do and buy online and don’t share links or posts with others that could put them at risk.

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