As a volunteer with a cyber crime-non profit, I’ve recently worked a case involving fraud.
I’d like to share the following techniques to avoid fraud from electronic media, such as social media and email. And, the same information can also apply to in-person, phone or mail solicitations.
First of all, if it sounds too good to be true, it very likely is too good to be true.
There are no contests or lotteries that someone else entered you in. If they did enter you, they’d already have all the information they’d need.
Also, no legitimate contest, payment from a legal action, or dividend payment would require a “fee” or payment of any kind.
Be wary of any email from a sender you’re not expecting. If necessary, block email from foreign countries. If your response is automatically being copied to the sender, this is a warning sign. Also, if you see other recipients copied, be careful.
When using email and websites, the following clues aren’t always clear warning signs, but they could be helpful:
Poor grammar or spelling. Fractured or fragmented sentences that look “filled in.”
Subject lines that don’t normally interest you.
Any email claiming to be a response, but you can’t remember contacting/visiting the sender or organization. If you can’t remember contacting them, you probably didn’t.
An image of a check means nothing. It’s extremely easy to make a graphic or image that appears to be a check.
A photo of a delivery of a box. Again, it’s just a photo of a delivery, nothing more.
Compare the URL/photo link with where it actually goes.
If you hover over a link, you should get a little caption that reads where it directs.
Type in links, if you must, rather than clicking them.
Be suspicious of emails or other messages that seem “out of date” – being composed months or years ago, having an old copyright date, or outdated versions of a company logos or symbols.
Use fact checking or verifying sources, and research the organization the sender claims to be with. There’s also a site called snopes.com that lists urban legends and online hoaxes. Use ways you can to verify facts.
Be suspicious of any request that has an unusual sense of urgency – asking you to respond within minutes, hours or today.
If someone calls you, but does not know your name discontinue the conversation.
Don’t give any information offline or online that you wouldn’t tell a stranger, because they are.
A good rule is that your online friends should mostly be your real world friends.
Never, ever, ever give up your passwords.
I hope this helps you avoid fraud in general – but also identity theft, malware and other forms of nastiness.