Protect yourself against online scams

Online scams

Thieves have turned old tricks into new online scams. Criminals continue to target unsuspecting people with fake offers and get rich quick schemes both offline and online. The Federal Trade Commission says more than 25 million people have sent money or turned over personal account details to strangers. Use these tips to help you spot common scams and protect yourself from identity theft.

Tech support scams 

Pay now for a promise later. One day your phone rings. The caller gives you a warning your computer needs an immediate software patch. Without it, they say, your machine is at risk of failing. The caller promises later reimbursement from the original software manufacturer, if you pay them today to fix the problem.

To lure you in, the caller may use convincing technology terms. They may also create a sense of urgency or an environment of fear. The tactics are used to obtain remote access to your system. You could be paying them to add malware to corrupt your system or access your accounts. Even worse, the original manufacturer will not return your money.

Protect your accounts and your computer by only allowing remote access from the following sources:

  • The original company where the device was purchased.
  • A retail tech support company.
  • Your internet service provider.

Make sure you initiate the remote session with the company you choose. 

If it’s free, it’s for me. An online ad pops up telling you to install and update security software on your computer. The “free security scan” claims to find problems. Then you’re prompted to buy the software to fix your system.

If you pay, you could become caught in a loop of reoccurring problems identified by the software. You’ll be asked to pay for fixes again and again, especially if you paid to fix a non-existent problem from the beginning. Either way you’ve lost money.

It’s important you know what legitimate security software is installed on your machine. If it’s active and up-to-date it will spot and correct potential threats. And you won’t need another software program. If in doubt, ask for security software recommendations from the initial retailer from which you purchased your device. Friends and family, or even your online service provider may have recommendations.

And remember, not everything free is a good deal.

Email scams 

A deal too good to pass up. The wire fraud scam often involves an email you receive. Here’s the setup: You deposit the check from the sender into your personal account and wire some of the funds back to them. For your participation, you get to keep the majority of the money. Sounds easy enough, right?

Unfortunately, the story ends with the scammer getting your hard-earned money. You're left paying back the full amount of the check. By law, financial institutions must make funds from deposited checks available within a few days.

Discovering a fake check can take weeks. If you deposit a check which turns out to be fake, you’re responsible for repaying the funds. If you’re unfamiliar with the sender, don’t accept their check.  

Gone phishing. Phishing scams are junk email sent in bulk to many people. The email looks like it’s from someone or some organization you’re familiar with. You’ll often see a request like this:

"We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity."

Criminals use the link to collect personal data like passwords, credit card numbers and login credentials. Then they make charges or commit crimes in your name. The link could also infect your machine with malware. 

So think before you click. If you weren’t expecting an email from the sender or if the request seems odd, don’t respond. Delete the email immediately. Be aware of the companies you do business with. It will help you better spot fake business emails.

Reputable companies like the Credit Union will never ask you to verify your personal or confidential information by common email providers. LGFCU, for example, uses secure email via Member Connect to communicate about accounts with our members. You must log in to Member Connect to use secure email.

When visiting any financial or online retail site check the URL begins with https: (the "s" stands for secure) and a lock icon is present to authenticate the site’s identity and indicate data transferred is encrypted.

Help make the internet safe for everyone

Use this simple reminder phrase to do your part to make the internet safer and more secure: STOP. THINK. CONNECT.

  • Stop. Before you connect, take time to understand the risks and learn how to spot potential red flags.
  • Think. Watch for warning signs and consider how your actions online could impact your safety or your family’s safety. 
  • Connect. Surf the web with greater confidence. You’ll sleep better knowing you’ve taken the right steps to safeguard yourself and your devices.

Learn more about online safety from the National Cyber Security Alliance at StaySafeOnline.org

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