We know its tempting when you see this: "Burning hot deal, 75% off if you click through our referral and we'll send you an exclusive offer!" But when something sounds too good to be true, well.. we're sure you know the rest. With a steep rise in online consumerism, mainly due to flocks migrating from brick and mortar stores, more people are learning the hard way when it to internet fraud. In fact, online fraud cases increased by 33% last year, reaching a record high of $264.6 million in 2008, as reported by the Internet Fraud Complaint Center released this past Monday.
So what steps do you need to take to avoid getting tricked online? We've went and rounded up a few of the most popular/notorious crimes on the internet today and ways to avoid them. If we missed any, feel free to let us know in comments!
From Directgov, an online government and community-run site:
- Protect your shopping and banking details: Before you buy anything online make a note of the address of the company that you are buying from. This should include details of the telephone and/or fax - never rely on just an email address. You should also make sure the site uses security during check-out (these sites usually change to 'https' in front of the web address which indicates that the company has been independently checked to make sure they are who they say they are). A yellow padlock symbol will appear in the browser window to show the payment process is secure.
- Passwords: If you prefer an easy-to-remember password, create a few of them. Give sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr a particular password, but reserve a slightly more complex one for your banking and online shopping accounts. This way if someone manages to get your Gmail password, you won't have to scramble restructuring your online persona from scratch AND have to deal with your money transferring to a foreign bank account.
- Learn to recognize fraud when you see it: Negative feedback is a clear indicator of a bad anything. Although it can be used unfairly to ruin another's reputation at times, it can be applied for the most part. If someone claims the seller has never shipped an item and did not give a refund, or if some of the products sold did not match the original description given, it's a big red flag that the seller probably isn't honest with his/her sales.
- Deal with fraud immediately: First, check with the company you dealt with to see if you can resolve the problem. If they ignore you after 3-5 days, it's time to get busy. If you paid for goods using a credit card and the goods did not arrive you can ask the credit card company to investigate. If you used an online payment service, check if you are covered by a fraud protection scheme on the service website.
- Last but not least, e-mail schemes: The internet provides criminals with an easy way to contact thousands of people at a time. Examples include, emails offering the chance to take part in money making schemes, or claiming you are the winner of a prize draw. Avoid these scams by taking your time making decisions that involve parting with money and only doing business with companies that you recognize or know of by recommendation by someone you trust - don't judge a company on how 'professional' their website looks.
[Image: Ola Jacobsen]