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Tis the Season for Internet Scams: 10 Tips to Avoid Being a Victim of Online Fraud

Tis the Season for Internet Scams: 10 Tips to Avoid Being a Victim of Online Fraud

Looking to get ahead and start your Xmas shopping but you're worried about online scams?

Shopping online can remove the pain of fighting your way around a shop or waiting in the queue to check out. But with so many scams out there, it can be hard to know how to stay safe online.

Don't worry! Read on for 10 tips to avoid being a victim of online fraud.

1. Don’t Give Your Financial Information

The first tip and one of the most important is to never give out your financial information. Scammers will often claim they're from a retailer, bank or government agency. They might try to argue someone has tried to access your account, or you need to update it.

They're trying to fool you into providing your financial information. This is a common method of scamming which is called phishing.

Your actual bank or government authority won't ever ask for your financial information. If you do receive a call or email like this, contact your bank or authority. They'll be able to tell you the status of your account.

2. Get Antivirus and Spyware Protection

If you're using your computer or laptop to make purchases and managing accounts this tip is vital. Install antivirus and spyware protection. This will keep all your sensitive information safe.

It's a good idea once you've installed it to turn on the auto-update function. This will ensure that your software is always updated to the current version.

3. Never Transfer Money to a Stranger

We've all received an email from a wealthy Nigerian Prince who has inherited a fortune. You've had the honour of helping him move the money from another account.

In return, you'll get hundreds of thousands of this fortune as a reward for the inconvenience. Lucky you! Wait, you need to wire him £5,000 it starts to seem fishy.

Believe it or not, even though it's one of the oldest tricks in the online book...people still fall for it. No matter what it says, if it's a rich traveler in embassy trouble or a long-lost relative - never send money to a stranger.

If you do, especially overseas, it can be impossible to get that money back or trace it. If you're worried about that relative, check-in with them. You can let them know their email has been hacked while you're at it!

4. Don't Click Hyperlinks in Emails

If a stranger or company you haven't heard of emails you to open a hyperlink - delete the email straight away. They might pose as your bank and tell you your account has been compromised. 'Click here to update your information'. Or they might be offering you a coupon for something. 

If you do 'click here' and fill out the form, you'll be giving them all your sensitive information. Your bank will never ask your personal account information. If you aren't sure, delete the email and ring them directly. More often than not, this will be a scam called pharming.

5. Use Strong Passwords

In this modern age, a password like 'password' or '0000' won't keep you safe. Hackers are pros at cracking passwords, especially simple combinations or sentimental words.

Choose a password with at least 8 digits. Try to use a mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and characters. Where possible, keep it a random combination rather than spelling out a word. Also, you want to make sure each account has a different password.

But remembering them all can be an issue. You can use programs like LastPass or something similar. Programs like these will create strong passwords and store them for you securely. You can then access them when you need them.

6. Keep a Regular Eye on Your Finances

On a regular basis, check your receipts against your online or paper bank statements. If you see a transaction you don't recognise, contact your bank or card company straight away.

You should also destroy any statements or documents with your personal details. And make sure you aren't keeping any of those in your car or handbag where they're easily accessible.

7. Make Sure to Visit Safe Websites

Before you put in your financial details on a website, check their privacy rules. You want to make sure the site also uses encryption. You can tell this by looking for a lock symbol to the left of the website address.

When you see that symbol, it means the information you put into that site is encrypted. So your information will have protection from those wanting to hack in and steal it.

8. Don’t Use Unfamiliar Online Retailers

When you're shopping online, only use retailers you trust. If a product has caught your eye from an unknown retailer, do some research.

Make sure you can trust the business and it's legit. You can do this by reading product reviews. Or you can search for any complaints against the company.

9. Don’t Download From Pop-Up Windows

While you're browsing online, you might have pop-up windows appear. They will often be loud and bright, with flashing elements. It might say that your computer is unsafe or you've won a prize.

If you click on it, it will start a scan on your computer. Next thing you know, it's installed malicious software on your computer called 'malware'. This could damage your computer or they might even lock it down and demand a ransom to give you your computer back.

10. Only Donate to Recognisable Charities

With the festive season upon us, we're all thinking about those less well off than ourselves. Many of us are going to be donating to charities.

If you get an email or call from a charity asking for donations, research them before committing. Some scams work by setting up fake charities so they can steal people's credit and debit card info.

Stay Savvy and Avoid Online Fraud

So there you have it! By following these 10 tips, you'll know how to avoid becoming a victim of online fraud.

Don't ever transfer money to people you don't know and never give out your financial details. Your bank or government will NEVER ask for it. If you get a call or email, its best to phone up your bank and check yourself.

Don't open links from people or businesses you don't know. And always check you're visiting safe websites.

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