How To Protect Your Family From Online Scams

Scams are as old as civilization, but in the age of the Internet, they’re more common than ever before. Whether they come through your email, social media, or any of the other dozens of digital portals into our lives, it seems like everywhere you turn there is someone trying to get their fingers into your pockets, or their hands on your personal information.

If you want to keep yourself, and your loved ones, safe from online scams, then follow these simple tips.


Tip #1: Always Verify The Source (And Never Give Out Your Details)

Most scams rely on you not doing the necessary legwork to see through the illusion you’ve been presented with. For example, if someone hacks into your email, or your social media, and sends messages to friends and family that “you” are stranded and need them to forward some cash so “you” can get home, that scam depends on a knee-jerk, gut reaction. If someone takes the time to call your cell phone, though, they’ll find you’re actually out at lunch with some friends, and not stranded in the small town of Polk, Iowa in need of bus fare to get home.

Always double-check with the source, no matter how dire a message seems. If you receive an email that looks like it’s from your bank, don’t just email them your password and PIN number. Call the bank’s customer service line, and be sure what you’re seeing is legitimate. If someone calls purporting to be a representative from your credit card company asking for your details, then hang up, and call the company directly. This is one of the most effective things Schwab suggests for maintaining your online safety.

Tip #2: Keep Your Guard Up

How many times have you considered disabling your firewall, or just turning off your password protection, because it’s inconvenient for your browsing habits? Sometimes it’s a legitimate website with options to get deals on Disneyland tickets, but you shouldn’t be too trusting. If you have considered turning off aspects of your security, though, you shouldn’t, because of the fewer the layers of security on your device, the more vulnerable it is.

Sure, it’s a pain to sign in with your password every time your computer goes into sleep mode, and it might be less than convenient for you to have to update your virus protection seemingly every time you turn around. But doing those things can save you from being a victim of opportunity. Don’t take our word for it, though; the FBI agrees.

Tip #3: Vet Your Online Destinations

Before visiting a website you’re unfamiliar with, how often do you run a search on its reputation first?

Most of us don’t, but we really should. Especially if it’s a site none of our friends have used before, and which we’ve never been to personally. Because even websites that look legitimate could be a front for a scam waiting to happen. You don’t even need to click a link, or agree to accept a download; sometimes just viewing the site is enough to put your device in danger.

It bears repeating; if you’ve never been to a site before, run a search on it to see if there are any red flags you should know about, or problems you should be aware of. Build your knowledge, as Wells Fargo says. Because the Internet is full of legitimate businesses that want to make you a valued customer… but for every one of them, there are a dozen scammers just waiting for you to dip a toe into their waters so they can snatch you up.

Craig Middleton

Craig has worked in health, real estate, and HR businesses for most of his professional career. He graduated at UC Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in Marketing.

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