How to Avoid Internet Scams

“How much is that doggie in the (computer) window?”

Whatever the price, it’s likely to be a scam,  according to the Better Business Bureau, which found  80 percent of sponsored advertising links that appear in an internet search for pets may be fraudulent. Clothing and jewelry online scams are common too. Awareness can help you avoid becoming a victim.

Consumers have embraced online shopping because of convenience and price comparison. “And where there’s money, there are scams,” Marketplace reporter Sabri Ben-Achour says in a recent report about fake online purchases. The number of online purchase scams to the BBB increased 124 percent from 2017 to 2018 and, this year, shows no signs of slowing.

We’re not saying you should stop shopping online but do follow these tips from Marketplace and BBB.

  • Do your research before hitting the “buy now” button.
  • Just because the ad pops up on your favorite social media doesn’t mean it is legit.
  • Look for “red” flags – no customer service toll-free number, e-mail contact or street address.
  • Explore the website to make sure the language looks and sounds professional.
  • Make sure the website has “https” in the URL (the extra s is for “secure”) and a small lock icon on the address bar.
  • Check out the company at the BBB, which includes BBB ratings, reviews and complaints.
  • Use secure, traceable transactions when making payments for goods. Often your credit card company will cover all or a portion of a fraudulent purchase. (Note: your debit card may not offer that same protection.)

And while we’re on the subject of good online habits, how secure are your passwords?

Yes, we are drowning in them, but most of us rely on the same dates, numbers and letters so the couple hundred passwords we have look pretty much the same.

“Hackers know that: 1) we are bad at creating complex passwords and 2) it often takes only one compromised login to get access to multiple accounts,” according to Huntington National Bank.

Passwords should be significantly different and complicated: use capital letters and special characters (but avoid the most common character !);  lie on security questions to throw off scammers; change a password when that site has had a breach or if you think it has otherwise been compromised; and store your passwords on a password manager or a secure place offline.

With the holidays approaching, many of us will be looking to shopping for gifts online. The convenience and selection makes it so easy. But please take a little time to be sure you are shopping safely. Happy Holidays everyone!

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