• On the Internet, there are no limits
  • On the Internet, there are no limits

Topic 1: Protecting Yourself from Internet Fraud

computer security

As our first post, we'd like to talk a little bit about Internet fraud. While the Internet has made our lives a lot more convenient, it has also presented us with new dangers and concerns. This makes it important for you to stay well-informed about the various scams and threats you face online. As the old saying goes, knowledge is power.

Today, things like identity theft have become an unfortunate fact of life, affecting millions each year. It's impossible to say exactly how much damage such incidents do, but suffice it to say the damage is significant.

Fortunately, it isn't too difficult to protect yourself if you are aware of the dangers that lurk on the Internet. In this article, we will go over some of the common dangers you need to be aware of.

1. Phishing
This is a common fraud online where unscrupulous people will try to steal your personal information by getting you to submit information on a site that looks legitimate. The most common way in which this is done is by sending you an email from that appears official. Typically, the email will alert you to some urgent situation that requires you to go online and log onto your account. Such emails can come from scam artists posing to be a bank, Paypal, or a credit card company. In the email, you will be asked to visit a website that also looks official, where you'll be asked to input personal information or logins. The problem is that the official-looking site you land on will actually be a scam site, and any login information you type in will be recorded. Then, that information will be used to infiltrate one of your real accounts.

The best way to protect yourself is simply not to click any links within emails. If you get a notice from your bank or credit card company asking you to log in, simply go to the site on your own, instead of clicking any links within the emails. In most cases, banks or credit card companies will not send you an email if something serious has happened, opting to call you instead.. For this reason, you might even just ignore any emails that come from banks or credit card companies. That's what I do, and I've never had a problem.

2. Identity Theft
Many people have their identity stolen each year, and in many cases the damage takes years to fix. Identity theft can occur in numerous ways. One way is for hackers to hack into the servers of a major merchant and steal customer information. Every couple months, we seem to hear about a major company being hacked. In many cases, the hacked information is then used to steal identities.

The way to protect yourself from identity theft is by being proactive. There are quite a few services online that monitor your credit activity. If you join such a site, you will be alerted the moment there is suspicious activity on any of your accounts. You can therefore take action early before any real damage is done to you or any of your financial accounts.

If you are interested in signing up for such a service, the best one is probably Equifax. They have different levels of membership, but for most people, the basic one will probably be more than sufficient in terms of offering protection. Other online services that protect you from identity theft include Lifelock, which is well-known and trusted by many people. I have not used this service myself, so I cannot vouch for it, however, if you are serious about protecting your identity, this is another service you may want to look into.

3. Viruses, Trojans, and Spyware
Viruses are probably the oldest threat on the Internet, and you therefore need to use an anti-virus and firewall program. The most well-known ones are McAfee and Norton. There are also quite a few free ones you can use, if you don't want to dish out the money to purchase something like Norton 360. To view all the current solutions available, as well as ratings and reviews, I recommend visiting CNET.

Now you know the 3 common threats online that you need to protect yourself against. To recap, don't trust links or attachments in emails, join a credit monitoring service, and install a good anti-virus program on your computer. There are no guarantees, but if you do these 3 things, you will be protected from the majority of threats on the Internet.