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The Resource Center Online Security Issues & Protection The Resource Center | article

How to Avoid Common Internet Scams

The first step in avoiding common internet scams is knowing how they work and how to identify them. With the anonymity of the internet, it seems that there are so many new ways to become a victim of fraud. On the flip side, though, the internet has helped spread important information about these scams to prevent further damage and risk of identity theft. To bolster your own personal security, here are two common scams you may encounter online, and how you can avoid them:

Charity scam

Unfortunately, there are people out there who want to take advantage of your goodwill and rip you off through charity fraud. To avoid becoming a victim, you should know what charity scams look like. Because frauds sometimes use the names of real organizations, they can be tricky to spot, but these scams use a lot of the same tactics.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, frauds tend to solicit funds via email, and they usually can’t provide details of the charity’s mission, what your donation is contributing to or proof that your contribution is tax deductible. They also tend to use high-pressure tactics to get you to donate money without allowing you the time to think or do any research. Sometimes, these scams will ask for payments in suspicious ways, like in a cash or money wire or by offering an overnight delivery service to collect the donation. Other scams have illegally promised sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation to lure victims.

A good rule of thumb with charities is to beware of anything you see online, whether it comes in an email or Facebook post. If you see a cause you want to help with, do some research on the organization and point your searches to anything about the charity’s reputation by including the words “complaints” or “scam.” If you get an email from an organization you recognize, you can call it directly and ask if it authorized the solicitation. You should also never follow any links in these emails. They often lead to websites that resemble a legitimate organization’s page but are used for fraudulent activity.

Romance scam

In a time where online dating is common, more people are encountering fraud just as much love. Because of the nature of these interactions, it can be especially difficult to detect fraudulent activity, but luckily there are a few tell-tale signs that your online sweetheart is up to no good.

These scammers tend to proclaim love far too quickly and want to chat on IM or email outside the site where you met. Often, they’ll claim to live or work far away, usually somewhere outside the United States, and have a lot of excuses to not meet up anytime soon. After getting to know you and forming a connection, they’ll invent some sort of traumatic event or bad business deal and ask for your financial help, usually to cover expenses like airplane tickets or medical bills. Regardless of whatever feelings you might have, you should never wire someone money on the internet. If the person is pushy or persistent on the matter, it’s likely he or she is trying to scam you. You should first break off all contact with this person, and then report the activity to the Federal Trade Commission, the dating website where you met, the FBI or your state Attorney General.

Knowing the signs to look for can greatly reduce the likelihood you'll be a victim of a scam, but with all the scams and breaches in the world, it seems inevitable that at some point we'll find ourselves the victims of ID theft. That's how an identity theft protection service, like Identity Guard, can help—by monitoring your credit, Social Security Number and public record you can be alerted to certain activity in your credit file that could indicate fraud.