If people didn't fall for online scams, online scammers would take up another line of work. And really, it isn't terribly hard to protect yourself. If you do one thing today, print out the following list and tape it to your computer. (lol)
- Be wary of any financial solicitation from a stranger, especially if there's a sense of urgency involved. Scammers always want you to act without thinking too hard about it.
- Be very clear about what you're buying from an auction site, and what such items typically cost. Be wary of goods sold "as is" or sellers who claim products are authentic but refuse to provide proof. Check the seller's reputation score carefully before you bid.
- When you get an e-mail from your bank, never click the link inside it. Always open your browser and type your bank's Web address manually.
- When you log in to your bank account, make sure you're doing it on a secure site; the Web address should start with "https" and you'll see a tiny lock icon in the bottom right corner of the browser.
- Be suspicious of all contests and giveaways, and read the fine print before filling out any online forms. Pay COD for shipping and handling, if you can.
- Don't believe all return addresses. Though an e-mail message may claim it's from your bank, your ISP, or even your boss, that doesn't mean it is. Spammers and virus mailers generally spoof the "From" address field in their messages with a legitimate address that they've stolen. You may even have received spam from yourself as a result of this clever technique.
- Don't open e-mail attachments--unless you absolutely, 100-percent trust the sender (e.g., it's someone you know well sending an attachment you've been expecting). Most viruses and worms arrive on your PC in the form of e-mail attachments.
- If you think you've been taken for a ride, contact local law enforcement in your area. Then file a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.