The holidays are prime time for scoring sales, wrapping gifts and planning trips, but it’s also high season for online scams.
These days, scamming has become so diverse and sophisticated that it takes a trained eye to recognize threats.
With the number of internet scams almost doubling every year, the average user should learn at least the basics of online safety to browse the web risk-free.
The good news is it’s quite simple to become a savvy internet user.
Below, we’ll walk you through the main concepts of online safety so that you can make the most out of your shopping sprees and well-deserved vacations.
How to stay safe online
When it comes to online security, there are three main vulnerabilities to watch out for:
Passwords are personal and shouldn’t be shared with people you don’t trust, let alone strangers. Sometimes we do this unintentionally by not logging out of sessions we’ve initiated in public computers. Passwords should also be updated regularly and shouldn’t be used multiple times.
Computers, tablets and smartphones house our information. Leaving our devices unprotected is equivalent to leaving the door to our house unlocked. Antiviruses and operating systems must be kept up-to-date to make it harder for hackers to access your device. At the same time, we should be heedful of the links we open and never input our data into unencrypted websites.
Finally, digital literacy is the only way to win the fight against online scammers. Cyber con artists rely on our naiveté to successfully rip us off. They prey on our emotions, needs and fears to get us to willingly hand over money or information.
But when we know the landscape, we can recognize patterns and identify scam tactics.
Types of scams and how to avoid them
The rule of thumb for purchase scams is that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Apartments and cars being sold at staggeringly low prices are probably cons waiting to happen.
To steer clear from these rip-offs, check URLs carefully for any misspellings and make sure you’re purchasing goods or services through a reliable website, especially one either you or your friends have already used.
If the website is new for you, it helps to search for reviews in case anybody has reported a scam. Also, keep an eye open for suspicious behavior. For example, a seller should never require you to make a payment outside the selling platform.
If you’re the seller, neither the platform nor the buyer is entitled to a “guarantee deposit” prior to shipment.
Fake loans are popular at the international level as scammers can take advantage of the fact that the other person is overseas. He or she can ask for sensitive data, such as debit card information, and claim it’s part of due diligence in their home country.
When it comes to loans, it’s best to stick to legitimate banks or entities you’re familiar with, one with local offices that can assist you in case of any hiccups.
Scammers know we aren’t always willing customers when it comes to purchasing expensive flight tickets and booking hotels, so they prey on our wishful thinking.
While airlines and hotels do have discounted rates from time to time, be mindful of deals offered through third-party websites. The same protocol as with loan scams applies. Do question every aspect of the website and double-check with friends or review sites before giving your information.
One thing is getting ripped off, and another thing is getting ripped off by someone you’ve grown to love.
Unfortunately, scammers have no scruples.
Their modus operandi involves friend requesting possible victims through social media, interacting with them until they’ve gained their trust and then demanding an urgent money transfer to visit the victim, help process an unexpected inheritance or cover medical bills.
To avoid these type of scams, start by never accepting friend requests from strangers. Take everything you’re told with a grain of salt as even video calls can be faked by speaking over muted, stolen footage. It also helps to perform reverse image searches to trace the origin of any media you receive.
Other types of online fraud to watch out for
Crime never sleeps, and neither should you—metaphorically.
In general, remember only to trust legitimate, encrypted websites, keep your apps updated, your antivirus running, and never send money to a person you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
At Ria, we are proud of being a money transfer operator that stops scammers from the first transaction.
To do so, we run thorough analyses of each case and adapt our filters and systems in accordance to our findings.
Our dedicated anti-fraud department grants the client an opportunity to explain their situation and offers them guidance to resolve the issue.
We believe in prevention, not detection, so it’s crucial for us to educate those who contact our anti-fraud department. It’s not about noting that a fraudulent transaction took place, but about keeping it from happening in the first place.