Over the past decade, online sales have surged to an all-time high. American families frequently make online purchases for items including common household products, clothing, and electronics. If you are one of the millions of Americans who shop online, you need to ensure that you are protecting yourself against fraud.
Unfortunately, there are criminals who will try to steal your personal information and money. Below are some ways to avoid online fraud:
• Be on guard. Criminals will send you requests for your private information, usually through a legitimate looking email. These emails will ask for information such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers and even your Social Security number. Reputable financial institutions and merchants will never ask for such information in an email.
• Do not send money to people you do not know. A common email scam is to send an email asking that you send money to someone in need. If you do not know the person who has emailed you, do not send them money.
• Know who you “friend.” Social media users are often friends with people that they do not know. You may be connected via social media to individuals who are trying to scam you. If you see a deal posted on a social media site that is too good to be true, it most likely is. Do not enter your personal information into the websites that are linked to these deals.
• Change your passwords often. Don’t use the same password for your email, bank account and retail sites. If one site is hacked, the scam artist can get into all of your online accounts. When possible, opt in for two-step authentication which requires codes from two different devices such as a cell phone and laptop to create an account. Also, freeze payments. If you do not get the items that you purchased within the time promised, ask your credit card company to freeze the payment. Be sure that your smartphone is also protected by a password.
• Do your online shopping on a secured Wi-Fi network. Public Wi-Fi networks are not private, meaning that other people may be able to see data sent over these networks such as your personal information.
• Check your bank statements for suspicious activity. Make it a habit to check your bank statements for unauthorized charges.
• Use the latest security software. Be sure that your personal devices are protected by the latest security software. When a security patch is available, be sure to download it.
For more information, contact Whitley County Cooperative Extension Service at 549-1430; e-mail DL_CES_WHITLEY@EMAIL.UKY.EDU; or visit the office located at 4275 N. Highway 25W in Goldbug.