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Protect Yourself From Online Fraud Threats

written by: •edited by: Brian Nelson•updated: 5/21/2011

Learn to recognize the most common ways people will try to take advantage of you online.

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    A Broad Spectrum

    Be Sure You're Not Being Led Down the Wrong Road by Knowing Common Online Fraud Types One sad, yet very true, fact about our modern world and the fast-paced realm of the internet is that fraud has become a commonplace way for individuals to take advantage of your trusting nature. Where once upon a time, you only had to be leery of the traveling salesman or that scheme from a co-worker that promised you would make easy money if you only gave him or her a thousand dollars to get started, in today's world, fraud can look an awful lot like the real thing. One of the best ways you can arm yourself against fraud is to become familiar with common cases. If you learn how to spot fraud before it spots you, you will be building a barricade that will protect your family, identity, and finances.

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    Phishing is one of the most common types of online fraud. Phishing is when an email, phone call, or text mesage takes you to a website that has been set up by a perpetrator to get you to disclose your private information. These websites are often exact copies of the legitimate website!

    A common phishing scheme occurs when a bank or other financial institution has appeared to send you an email telling you false information such as "Someone has been trying to log into your account, log in now or risk having your account closed." Phishing schemes can be quite scary, especially if it is the first time that you have seen one. Here are some typical characteristics of a phishing scam:

    • You are required to provide personal information that the institution should already have on hand
    • There are threats that involve closing or suspending your ability to access your accuont should you not provide this information
    • You are asked to provide personal information in response to survey questions
    • You are being told that your account has been somehow compromised, unauthorized charges have been made, or that attempts have been made to sign into your account.
    • You need to confirm private information

    To avoid being taken advantage of by a phishing scam, first, know that financial informations will not contact you for such information. Never give out personal information over the phone or internet unless you have initiated the contact. Be leary of any emails asking you for information that the other person should have. Don't click on unfamiliar links. When in doubt, report the contact to the institution "asking" for the information.

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    The Long-Lost Uncle and the Larger than Expected Check

    Another very common type of fraud involves depositing money your bank account and sending money elsewhere. This scam may come in the form of an email from someone claiming you have won a lottery, asking you to help out by holding money for them, or from Craigslist (I'll come to this in a moment). Never agree to these scams where you give out your account number and financial information in exchange for some sort of financial award.

    You may also find that in doing business on Craigslist (or elsewhere) that someone sends you a check that is for more than the amount you expected and when you call them on this, they give you instructions to send the difference to another location. Don't fall for this either - it's what's known commonly as a Nigerian 419 scam - and the check you received is either drawn from a false account or will bounce when you deposit it.

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    Lose 100 Pounds This Weekend, Make Thousands a Month from Home and You Need to Invest in This!!!

    Watch Out for Offers That Are Too Good to Be True! Many scams involve claims that tug at our desire to look good or our desire to have lots of toys set up in our home. If it sounds too good to be true, you are looking at a scam. Weight loss claims can really tug at our emotions since there is a desire of many people to lead skinny, movie star lives.

    Here are some common fraudulent "products" to watch out for:

    • Any miracle pill that will magically slough off fat
    • Any cream that promises that you will somehow melt fat away
    • A magical patch that will solve all of your problems
    • A super-secret book that will tell you all the secrets of loosing weight without modification to diet or exercise habits
    • "Work-at-home" jobs where you "just" stuff envelopes, photocopy things, or put together items
    • Any "work-at-home" job asking you for money up front
    • Anything that promises to cure every ailment or be a scientific breakthrough
    • Any "investment" that will give you lots of money with no risk

    These are easy to fall for, because all of the claims tug at emotional needs or insecurities. Most of the time what will happen here is that you will either find that you never receive the product, the product is ineffective, you never receive pay for your work, or you cannot ever meet the standards required for being paid.

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    No More Debt! and Get This Great Credit Card or Loan with No Credit!

    Millions of Americans are in over their heads when it comes to debt. When an online fraud predator sees this, and the desperation involved with individuals wanting to do anything they can to crawl out of the mire, then they have found the perfect target. The truth is, there is no bailout for debt other than commitment, hard work, good budgeting, and taking on every task you can to work towards the goal of becoming debt free.

    However, your email might say differently. If you receive an email saying that you can get out fo debt by paying a low payment and do so without any of the negative consequences being over your head in debt can have, it is very tempting. Don't fall for it though. Instead, talk with creditors, hold a garage sale, or take on a part time job.

    Related to the get out of debt free card is the credit card or loan with no credit check scheme. Even if you are guaranteed a card and you have horrible credit, don't fall for this one! Even if it is a legitimate offer, you may be asked for money up front (huge red flag) or slammed with extraordinarily high interest rates. Besides, if you qualify as someone potentially falling for a debt consolidation scheme, should you really be trying to sink further in the debt hole?

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    The False Auction and the "Free" Gift for $14.95

    Rounding out the varying common types of internet fraud is the false auction or the free gift. While we all love Ebay and the ability to get some pretty rare and awesome stuff for dirt cheap, unfortunately this and other auction sites are often the victims of predators. Make sure you always use a credit card or online service, and not a check, when dealing with auction sites. Do not ever wire money, send a personal check, cash, or a money order (and never accept a check over the amount of the auction) if you can at all help it. There are several things that can go wrong when dealing with online auctions including:

    • Never getting what you ordered, or getting something that is worth less than what was advertised
    • Not getting the item on time
    • Not having all the information
    • False bidders that drive up the price of an item
    • Individuals that bid high then cancel their bids

    Also, be leery of anything claiming that you have a free gift waiting, but that you need to pay to receive it. This is one of the oldest fraud scams!

    Protect yourself by learning all you can about common online fraud types. Only by arming yourself with information about ways you may be taken advantage of online, can you protect yourself and make educated decisions.

    Finally, trust your gut! If something doesn't seem quite right, most likely there's a problem.

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    Common Types of Online Fraud

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