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Avoiding Online Scams in the Digital Age

The internet has a down side.
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New online scams pop up every week. While the internet has changed the world for the better in many ways, there is a downside. 

Despite the misconception that fraudsters target senior citizens, a recent study by the FTC found that more millennials than retirees are now getting scammed out of money online

At Andrews Federal Credit Union, protecting your money and personal information is the top priority. That’s why we built our Security Center, to help you navigate online fraud and prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

Social Media Scams

The Better Business Bureau warns about online fraud happening within social media sites like Facebook and Instagram. It starts with a “friend or relative” who contacts you, claiming that you are entitled to free money. But there’s a catch – they want you to pay upfront for shipping or provide your personal information. 

Follow these tips to avoid a social media scam:

  • Don’t give out your password (and don’t use the same password for multiple accounts) 
  • Set your account to private and do not accept friend requests from people you don’t know
  • Always use a secure network, not public Wi-Fi
  • Keep apps, browsers, and antivirus software up-to-date

Website Scams

The old phrase “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” certainly applies to shopping online. Fake retail websites aim to steal your hard-earned money by pretending to be legitimate. Pay attention to these red flags when shopping online:

  • Improper grammar 
  • Super-low prices 
  • The name one or two letters off from a legitimate company
  • Does not accept credit or debit card payments 
  • Reviews that sound suspicious 

How can you protect yourself from these phony sites?

  • Use Google’s Transparency tool to check site status or the BBB’s Scam Tracker
  • Only purchase items online using a secured network 
  • Confirm that the web address begins with “HTTPS,” – the ‘s’ stands for secure
  • Never store your card number in a browser, website, or mobile app

Texting or “Smishing” Scams

You’re probably familiar with phishing—fake emails that claim to come from legitimate companies—but have you heard of a similar tactic called smishing? Smishing is when fraudsters send text messages that seem urgent and indicate something is wrong. These texts typically ask you to click on a link or reply to resolve a serious situation. They may also promise gifts or offers in exchange for personal information. So how should you handle a text message that you think maybe spam? 

  • Do not reply or click any links 
  • Go to the company’s website to contact them directly
  • Delete the text

Passive Income scams

Some of the most significant categories of online scams promise you can make easy money online or from home by doing little to no work at all. Here are a few to watch out for:

  • Remote work: There are many actual remote positions online; however, some work-from-home opportunities may be a trap. Watch out for jobs that require you to pay to start working.
  • Digital currency: An account manager may ask you to deposit your bitcoin or cryptocurrency, with promises of doubling or tripling your money. 

Online Dating or Romance Scams

The TV Show, Catfish initially aired in 2012. So, you might be familiar with the deception known as ‘catfishing’ on the internet. Fraudsters prey on dating sites to find vulnerable people who are seeking a partner. Once a romantic connection is established, the fraudster will lure that person into draining their bank accounts.

These fraudsters know exactly how to fool their victims into falling in love and giving away their life’s savings. Once they have wooed their prey, they will move the conversation to a private channel where they continue to build the connection. Then, suddenly, the fraudsters will pretend that something awful has happened, and they will ask for money or gifts. 

Consider these tips and more from the FTC to avoid romance scams: 

  • Don’t give money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in real life
  • Be careful what you post online and avoid sending photos of yourself, which can be used for blackmail 
  • Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile to see if they are using a stolen photo
  • Talk to someone you trust and pay attention if friends and family are concerned

How to Report Fraud

Do you suspect that you or someone you know is being scammed? Here’s how to report fraud and create a trail of evidence along the way:

If you suspect you’ve become a victim of fraud or identity theft, visit the Andrews Federal Security Center to determine the best course of action for your particular situation. If you already have an Andrews Federal account, log in to Digital Banking to report suspicious activity, lost or stolen cards, and other types of fraud.

When it comes to protecting yourself during the digital age, knowledge is power. Learn more about how to protect yourself from cybercrime and keep your information safe.