Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tis the Season to Get Scammed Online! 10 Ways to Protect Yourself

Tis the Season to Get Scammed Online! 10 Ways to Protect Yourself

The holiday season brings moments of joy, happiness, and scams! During the holiday, the scam artists are on the prowl considering the high number of online consumers.
It is critical to take the necessary steps in order to protect your identity and your credit.

Here are some tips for beating the online scammers:

1. Do not use debit, just credit! Use credit cards (not debit) for online purchases. It is much easier to remove unauthorized charges on credit cards as opposed to debit cards.

2. Do not save your credit card information to an online account. Hackers can find ways of breaking into a reputable site in which they can access credit card information. If you have the option, choose not to save the information or delete it soon after the transaction is complete.

3. Sign up for an online credit report account. Make sure it is a reputable one such as Equifax or Experian. This way, any changes to your credit reports will be sent to you immediately or on a monthly basis.

4. Have alerts set up on your credit cards. Some credit cards have features where if your balance exceeds a certain amount, an email or text will be sent to you immediately. Also, credit card companies will try to convince you into signing up for their credit protection plan for a monthly fee. Do not sign up for it. The credit card company already has to remove an unauthorized charge. Their service is a waste of money.

5. There is no such thing as a free ride! Some scamming email promotions include asking individuals to forward this email to 10 people and you will receive a free laptop. If it sounds too good to be true, it is!

6. Beware of embedded links within emails! If you receive an e-newsletter with a link to a website, beware before you click. Make sure the link is to a reputable site. For example, although the email may say “Specials at”, the embedded links may take you to another site. It may be safe to type in the website address as opposed to clinking on the links.

7. Do not open any attachments within emails that you do not recognize. It does not matter who the sender is! Some of these "scam" emails have attachments with extensions such as testrun.exe. Anything with an exe extension is an executable which means it can run on your computer. A hacker can easily create those files to destroy important information on your computer.

8. Beware of the TINY URLs! Tiny URLs are shortened website addresses. The tiny url cannot be identified until you click on it. On twitter, for example, some people may have tiny urls which will take you to a site which is a scam.

9. Change your password frequently! The more shopping you do online, the more often you should change your passwords. The recommended number of times to change the password is every 2-3 months. During the holidays, change it every month.

10. Do not give out critical, personal information to websites. If they ask for a maiden name, social security number, or passwords to other accounts – then you may become a potential victim of identity theft.

Wishing you a safe and scam-free holiday.

Jeanine Swatton