Online fraud is a real concern as shopping online increases in popularity every year. Initially, consumers were wary of the potential for credit card fraud when they shopped online.
They carefully checked their computer address bar to be certain they were ordering on a protected site that listed the https protocol. The “s” meant the page was secure.
For consumer 30 and over, shopping online was a gradual experience. If they ordered occasionally and had no problems with credit card fraud, they became more confident of their safety.
A younger generation, raised with computers, now assumes shopping online is safe as well as convenient.
The Dangers of Online Fraud
Most fraud is not from one person trying to steal the credit numbers of another.
It often begins with spyware installed on your computer without your knowledge. A good anti-virus and anti-spyware tool will help prevent this and identify any threats before they can become active.
Keyloggers are a special problem. Once installed secretly in your computer system, these little bugs can transmit your account numbers, social security number and passwords to a thief whose goal is fraudulent transactions.
Though you are not usually liable for unauthorized charges against your credit card accounts, this is only part of the problem you face.
Those charges may be reflected on your credit file even though they are fraudulent. This can damage your credit rating for some time. It will cause you to pay more for interest rates and for insurance until and unless you can have your credit file corrected.
It takes time, effort and sometimes money to go through the process of cleaning your credit file and restoring your good name. It’s a frustrating effort and the laws put the burden of clearing incorrect credit reporting on the consumer.
How to Prevent Online Fraud
Passwords are important yet so many computer shoppers use the same easy to remember password for all their online accounts.
One of the best methods to prevent online fraud is to use unique and complex passwords for every account. This includes online banking, credit card management tools, merchant shopping venues and payment processors such as Paypal.
Before providing any personal information make certain you are on a site with “https” in the address and/or a lock icon at the bottom right of your browser.
Do not open emails from unknown senders and never click on an attachment in an email that is sent by an unknown person or company. If you suspect a message is spam, delete it immediately.
Download software and screen savers only from sites you trust. A good virus and anti-spy computer program will warn if you land on a site that is not trusted. However, you should also be cautious about downloads even if there is no warning popup.
Check your financial accounts and credit card bills frequently to identify any unauthorized use quickly. The longer you are unaware of unauthorized charges, the longer the thief has to steal from you.
Phishing is a Big Concern
Phishing has more potential for damage from online fraud than perhaps any other internet activity. Phishing emails appear to be sent from a company or site you trust and use. Often the message almost makes sense and urges you to take action to protect yourself.
Phishing emails are more sophisticated than the scam emails we are accustomed to. You may receive a request to “confirm your account” that seems to be sent from Paypal.
You may get an email from a credit card company like Chase or Citi that tells you the company has detected a potential security to you and needs you to confirm your account by clicking on a link in the email.
The danger of phishing emails cannot be over-emphasized. They appear official; the message is designed to make you think you must take an action to protect an account or a charge card. There is always a link in the email you are told to click to clear up the problem.
That link leads to a form where you are asked to give your credit card account number, your password, and perhaps more personal information. Amazingly, thousands of people fall for phishing emails every month.
Avoid the danger by never clicking on a link in such an email. Instead, close the email and go directly to the merchant’s site by entering the site in your browser address bar.
If there is a problem with your account, it will be listed there. Chances are there is no problem – only a fraudster trying to get your personal information any way he can.
If you look at the details of the header in the email you will see although the email purports to be from a certain company, it is actually sent from a totally different address.
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Don’t be afraid to shop online or to transfer money online. Take simple precautions to protect your credit from online scams. No reputable online merchant will send you an email asking you to give personal information.
Strong passwords, a good anti-virus and anti-spyware program installed on your computer and common sense when reading emails that may be phishing will keep you safe from online fraud.