Installing security software is a good start in preventing online fraud. However, education is key. The following tips will help you surf safely and with security in mind. Be sure to print this page and ask others in your household to read and understand these tips.
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Great Internet Habits
Although 100% prevention is impossible, there are some logical precautionary measures that you can take to reduce the potential of being conned by phishing scams.
Type important web URLs
Access your Internet banking or other important URL by typing the address into your browser. If you are unsure of what the correct URL is, contact your bank by phone. Do not use URLs from emails claiming to be from your bank.
Don't reply to phishing emails
Scammers 'phish' for your personal information in a variety of ways. Most commonly, this is done through fraudulent emails claiming to be from your bank or other institution. The emails will often ask you to confirm personal details that the requesting institution should already possess.
Never respond to emails that ask for personal information. Banks and other organizations that hold your personal information will never send an email asking you to verify personal information. When in doubt, always check with the organization via contact details they have given you previously, not the contact details within the email.
Never click on links within emails
The "real" URLs in links within fraud emails are often hidden or disguised. The text you see as a link may not be where the link takes you. If you are unsure of the source of the email, you should not click on links within emails that appear to be from a legitimate company. Instead, directly type the URL in your browser address bar, or call the company on a contact number previously verified or known to be genuine.
Look for "https" and a padlock icon for sites that requests personal information
Information entered on a web site can be intercepted by a third party. Secure web sites (web sites that properly use the https protocol) are protected against this possibility. When submitting sensitive financial and personal information on the Internet, look for the locked padlock on your browser's status bar or the "https://" at the start of the URL in the address bar.
Note: The padlock and HTTPS do not guarantee that a site is legitimate or secure. However, the absence of these features indicates that the web site is definitely not secure.
Check your bills and records
Each month, closely inspect your credit card bills, banking receipts, and other financial records for unusual items or purchases.
Check your credit report
If you have responded to a fraudulent email, you may be at risk of identity theft. A virus could have been implanted within the email, which may find and pass on sensitive personal information about you.
Check your credit report. If you suspect identity theft, subscribe to a credit-report monitoring service; you will be alerted if your personal information is used fraudulently. See If you believe you are a victim of identity theft.
If unsure as to the legitimacy of an email, seek advice from the legitimate corporation using verified contact details--don't use any contact information in the suspected email. For other potentially fraudulent emails, delete the email, or forward the message to a fraud protection service that investigates such incidents.
Tools that Help Create a Secure Internet Experience
No program can provide 100% security. However, installing certain tools can definitely improve your chances of not getting taken by surprise.
Use email filter software
Some studies have shown that around 85% of all email sent is spam, with a majority of the emails fraudulent. This can be costly and time consuming to end users who receive them. Effective mail filters can reduce the number of fraudulent and malicious emails you are exposed to.
Use anti-virus software
Anti-virus software can detect and delete virus files before they can attack a computer. These virus programs can search your computer for personally sensitive information and pass the information to fraudsters.
If you already have anti-virus software, make sure you scan your computer at least once a week. Most virus programs allow you to schedule such scans. Also, keep your software up-to-date.
Use anti-spyware software
Spyware and adware are files or programs that can be installed on your computer, even if you don't want them, without you knowing they are there. They allow others to monitor your web browsing patterns, track what you purchase, and inundate you with annoying pop-up ads.
If you've downloaded some music, files or documents, and you suddenly start getting annoying ads popping up on your screen, you could definitely be infected with spyware and/or adware.
To avoid this problem, make sure you install anti-spyware software. If you already have anti-spyware software, make sure to scan your computer at least once a week. Most anti-spyware programs allow you to schedule such scans. Also, keep your software up-to-date.
Use a personal firewall
Firewalls can monitor both incoming and outgoing Internet traffic from a computer. This can protect the computer from being hacked into and from having viruses or spyware installed without your knowledge. Most firewall programs also block unauthorized access to the Internet from your computer.
Keep software up-to-date
Fraudsters and malicious computer hackers constantly search for vulnerabilities in operating systems and web browsers. In response, software vendors routinely update their software to fix these vulnerabilities and protect consumers.
Always ensure that your operating and browser software are kept up-to-date using legitimate upgrades and patches issued by the software vendor. Visit your operating system vendor's web site for update information and subscribe to any automatic updating service.
For Windows users, make sure the Windows automatic updates are enabled. To do this, open the Security Center control panel.
Use safe online shopping habits
Ensure that you are shopping online safely and wisely.
- Know who you are dealing with.
Ensure that you can find the merchant's name, address and telephone/fax numbers so you can contact them if you require further information. Check the web site for quality assurance certificates or seals. You can also check who has registered the domain name by checking it out at www.whois.net.
- Know what you are buying.
When you buy online, you can't touch or test what you want to buy. Only purchase from web sites that provide a detailed description of the product.
- Know the complete cost of the product.
Are there any shipping or handling fees, taxes or duties that have not been included in the purchase price? Know what currency the purchase is in.
- Know what you are agreeing to.
The merchant should provide you with terms and conditions of your purchase in plain English. Read the conditions carefully so you know what you are signing up for.
- Know what you can do when you are not happy with your purchase.
What is the company's refund or return policy? Is there a process for handling complaints? Is it clear who is responsible for handling post-sales inquiries?
- Know what the business does with the information it collects about you.
- Know whether the payment system is secure.
Before you provide credit card or financial information, ensure the merchant has a secure payment transaction system. Look for one or both of these signs that the site is secure: (1) A lock icon at the bottom of the screen, in the status bar of your browser; if the site is secure, the lock will be closed; (2) The web site address begins with https - the 's' indicates that the site is secure.
Keep up-to-date on Internet fraud developments
Besides security tools, education and awareness are the best possible defenses against Internet fraud. While fraudsters will continue to develop new ways to scam people out of their money, ensure that you stay informed of the latest scams.