Internet use is perpetually on the rise worldwide thus everyone and his mother need to know at least ten ways to prevent Internet fraud. Unfortunately, there are different varieties of Internet fraud just as the online habits of people vary. There is the pedophile who lurks in chat rooms reserved for genuine Hannah Montana fans or the American teenager who partners up with a peer based in Russia. Together they plan to steal credit card information from naive Internet users.
- Know as much as you can about the seller when purchasing from online auctions. Check the feedback written about the seller and the Better Business Bureau if purchasing from a business. It is safer to purchase from a seller based in the US than from one abroad because of the differences in the law from country to country.
- Purchase merchandise from reputable online businesses. Check the Better Business Bureau when unsure about the reputation of a business. Use your favorite search engine and type in the business name plus the word "scam" or "fraud" to see any registered complaints about a company.
- The safest way to purchase items online, according to the FBI's website, is by credit card as you can dispute any unauthorized transactions. Make sure the transaction is secure. One way to do this is to watch out for the tiny padlock icon next to the URL listed on top of your browser. Remember this isn't an absolute proof of online security so the guidelines of purchasing from reputable online businesses are still more important.
- Research the product extensively before purchasing. Fraud.org states that legitimate sellers will give as much information about a product as possible such as product details, total price including shipping, delivery time and refund policies.
- Don't let a website's good looks fool you. A decent website can be produced in less than an hour by a professional web or con artist. This is especially true thanks to the increase number of sites that offer free flashy templates.
- Unsolicited emails are often fraudulent. Replying to such inquiries can also give the con artist the green light as this verifies your email address and the fact that you received what could just be an initial scam offer to be followed by some more.
- Beware of "phishing". Phishing is a very effective type of Internet fraud where criminals pose as an established legitimate business with the objective of stealing sensitive information. An email your "bank" sent you that asks for your password is most probably a phishing scam. According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG), "phishers" generally attempt to steal usernames, passwords, credit card numbers, social security numbers, date of birth and so on. Call the business when in doubt and find out if the email you received is legitimate.
- Be careful of the information you post on social networking sites such as Facebook. Think of your profile as a huge billboard on a major highway. Anyone can grab the information from potential employers to ex-girlfriends to online criminals.
- Download only from reputable websites. Make sure your anti-virus software is updated. As boring as user agreements can be, get into the habit of reading them before downloading software.
- If something sounds too good to be true, it most probably is. This is especially true if the tempting offer comes from Nigeria. Did you really think you inherited a million dollars from a Nigerian prince?
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