The creativity and perseverance of online con artists and thieves is absolutely amazing. The internet is today’s version of the old wild, wild west, with plenty of bad guys operating in the vast land of cyberspace. While law enforcement agencies do their best to keep up with scammers, catching and stopping them all is an impossible task.
What’s sad and frustrating is that in most cases of online theft or fraud, the victim played a role in the process, either by being careless with his own personal information or by unwittingly cooperating with the criminals.
You are your best defense against online crime. You can protect yourself by always staying in charge of your online activities.
One of the most common online crimes is known as phishing (pronounced fishing). Scammers use a variety of methods to trick you into revealing personal information that they can later use to commit identity theft or other types of fraud. Some phishing efforts are obvious, others are very clever.
Whenever anyone initiates contact with you and starts asking for information, do three things:
Stop. Think. Stay in charge. First, stop. Never reveal personal details, financial data, or other private information that criminals could use to commit crimes. When someone starts asking for information, simply stop and terminate the contact. Second, think. Do you really think your bank and credit card companies are going to ask you to confirm your account information, including account numbers and passwords, by e-mail? They don’t do that. They already have that information. And if there is a legitimate problem with your account, they will either call you on the phone or send a notice by U. S. mail. The same applies to lottery and other contest winnings, and any other offer of riches that seems too good to be true.
Third, stay in charge. Maintain control over your internet activities. Don’t answer questions just because someone asks. This rule applies to any situation where you did not initiate the contact. Scammers often start out by asking harmless questions and gradually move up to the requests that will gain them the information they’re really seeking. They’ll make you feel comfortable—or, conversely, they make you believe that if you don’t provide them with the details they want, your accounts will be shut down and you’ll suffer some horrible result. The reality is that if you do provide them with the information they want, you’re going to end up being a victim of some sort of crime.
Scammers are smart but you can outwit them if you just stop, think, and stay in charge.
Jacquelyn Lynn is the author of Online Shopper’s Survival Guide (Entrepreneur Press, August 2006) and co-author of Make Big Profits on eBay: Start Your Own Million $ Business (with Charlene Davis, Entrepreneur Press, 2005) and the author of ten titles in Entrepreneur’s Start-Up Guide Series. For more information, visit http://www.jacquelynlynn.com