How to Avoid Online Fraud

Billions of dollars are stolen every year 

by thieves equipped with nothing more than a laptop and an internet connection.

Online fraud is usually committed by people impersonating someone else, whether it be a financial institution employee, a member of a tech support team for a big company, or a representative of an e-commerce site.

All fraud is avoidable.

By taking a few simple precautions, you can ensure nobody has access to your money, email account, or any other valuable or sensitive property.

Always verify the web address of a company you wish to contact

Whether you're contacting your financial institution, a website from which you buy merchandise, or tech support for an IT company, look at the URL in the address bar at the top of the screen. Is the domain name right? If you're trying to contact Microsoft or Google, then the URL should end in microsoft.com or google.com respectively. 

Fraudsters regularly adopt domain names that seem legitimate by including the name of the company in question but adding another word, e.g. microsoftsupport.com, or by using a different top-level domain at the end, e.g. .net instead of .com. Only when you have ensured that the web address is that of the company you wish to contact should you go ahead and talk to them. 

Be mindful of 'virus' warnings

A favorite trick of fraudsters is to use pop-up warnings telling you your computer is "at risk" or "infected", and add contact details for getting it fixed. In many cases, there is even a spoken message telling you to take action. These warnings are always fake, and you should not visit sites where they appear. When you contact the people behind them, you will be charged a heavy price for having a non-existent problem solved, and possibly have a real virus placed on your computer so that you will need to contact them again. In addition to all this, they can also use access to your computer to steal from you.

Never allow anyone remote access to your computer

Many types of online theft are impossible without this. The fraudsters will pretend they need access to your computer to repair some defect or to help you with some complex problem you cannot handle yourself. You will be asked to click on some links to give consent. Once they have access to your machine, they can black out the screen to hide what they are doing and look through your files for any useful information such as bank details or passwords. In addition to stealing your information, they can also place an invisible keylogger on the device to read everything you type from then on, e.g. credit card details when you buy online. 

Fraudsters will often not tell you what they are doing when asking you to click on the remote access consent link. If you find you have inadvertently allowed them access to your device, cut them off immediately by holding down the power key for ten seconds to switch your device off. You can also break contact by disconnecting your internet service. This can be done by switching off the router or removing the cable from your device.


Never reveal your PIN or password to anyone

Once someone asks you online for a password, PIN, or one-time security code you receive by phone from a financial institution, you know they are a scammer. It's one of the basic rules with banks and other such institutions that they will never ask you to reveal this to them when you're in contact with them by phone or online. 

Beware of phone calls claiming to be from your financial account holders

Many fraudsters begin by phoning their victims claiming there has been a breach of security on an account or credit card with some e-commerce site. Typically, they will then ask for more details such as PINs or passwords, claiming they need this private information to secure the account.

If you co-operate, they may then tell you all your money has to be moved to a secure account (i.e., theirs).

These calls are fake and, as already noted, no bank will ever ask you for your PIN or password over the phone. If you receive such a call, take no action other than contacting the institution in question yourself to ensure there is no problem.

What to do if you think you are being defrauded

You may only realize you are a victim when it is too late.

In that case, contact the financial institution in question and ask them to stop any transactions on your account.

If you have allowed anyone remote access to your computer:

  • you need to take it to a repair shop and have any spyware (e.g. keyloggers) removed.
  • Keep your computer switched off until you have done this.
  • If you responded to a virus warning, you need to have your device checked for any virus that may have been placed on it by the fraudsters.

Don't be put off by the threat of fraud

Communication technology has greatly simplified financial transactions; making banking, shopping, and booking easier than it ever was.

It is a huge advance that improves the lives of millions of people.

There is no need to be intimidated by the risk of theft. Taking these simple precautions will ensure that all your transactions are secure.


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