The Internet has brought the global marketplace right to our fingertips, making it easier than ever to purchase goods and services, do our personal banking, and donate money. Along with this technological convenience, however, also comes the dangers of getting scammed online. Providing unsecured websites with your personal information can put you at risk of being taken advantage of and having your money and even your identity stolen quickly and easily.
Before you provide your personal information online, you need to be very aware of the dangers of online scams and make sure that whatever site you are doing business with is reputable and can be verified. The following are five ways to protect yourself from online scams:
1. Do not respond to email soliciting.
Many websites encourage visitors to sign up for e-newsletters that offer a variety of information, coupons, tips, etc. However, unless you have signed up to receive regular emails from a particular site, it’s best to be skeptical of email solicitations and avoid responding to them. Many online scams use these solicitations to steal confidential information and even funds from their victims, so use your discretion and simply ignore such emails.
2. Make sure the e-commerce sites you buy from are secured.
Before you provide your credit card information to an online shopping website, it’s essential that you verify if the site is secured. One way to do this is by ensuring that the site’s URL starts with “https.” Unsecured sites will have URLs that start with just “http.” If you happen to be using Wi-Fi from a shared spot like a coffee shop or library, lurking hackers may be able to obtain your personal credit card information if you provide it to unsecured sites. Doing your online shopping only through secured, password-protected sites is the safest way to go.
3. Do not click on hyperlinks dircting you to outside websites.
Unsecured sites or email solicitations might provide you with hyperlinks that direct you to outside websites. Be wary of such hyperlinks, as they might be a ploy to send you to an unsecured site developed by hackers who are waiting for your visit so they can steal your personal information. Before you click on these suspicous-looking hyperlinks, manually type the URL into the search engine to verify if the site is legitimate or not.
4. Don’t assume emails from “banks” are legitimate.
These days, many hackers are sending out emails that are designed to resemble those from banks. These emails typically request that the receipient update their bank account information. If you get an email asking you to update your information, make sure that it is a legitimate message from your actual bank. Instead of responding to such a request, contact your bank directly to inquire.
5. Be skeptical of charities contacting you for donations.
Hackers will prey on people’s compassionate side and attempt to gather personal information from consumers by asking for donations to support their charity. Don’t respond to these pleas, as they likely are online scams. Legitimate charities don’t need to email people to solicit donations or obtain any personal information from them in order to be able to accept their donations. Simply ignore such requests and make your donations only through verified, reputable charities.
Be sure to educate yourself on the various ways in which hackers steal confidential information and money from unsuspecting consumers, as having knowledge of these methods will also help you avoid online scams. And remember, it’s always best to verify the validity of websites and emails before you give out your information online. Play it safe and keep your personal information to yourself until you’ve been able to determine that these sites and emails are legitimate.