Whether online or offline the one has to be able to protect oneself from the ne’er-do-wells of the world who would take advantage of you. These scammers stoop to no level in order to take from you what you’ve worked hard for. Knowing how to avoid and protect yourself is of utmost importance.
The first step
First of all, and any law enforcement or security group will tell you is that the first line of defense is yourself. The way you handle your affairs, whom you communicate with and how you do it. The way you dish out information about yourself and how open you are to gullibility and suggestion. We humans are innately gullible and will fall for every lie thrown at us if it is attractive and allays our fears. Those emails and post cards offering easy ways to wealth or begging for donations to some cause or unfortunate soul rake in billions upon billions of dollars annually.
These scams are similar to the ones that have been run for centuries. The difference is that when new technologies emerge, ways of communicating like the internet the scammers adapt to the new ways and generations of of them now have a foothold where they set their traps just waiting for you to walk into eyes wide open.
These criminals are masters of human behavior and know the right buttons to push. They know that posting that picture of that sick puppy or impoverished child will tug at your heart strings and sucker you right into their trap. They’ll use politics and religion or any cause celeb to capitalize on. They enlist the aid of artists who make their companies and websites to look legitimate and even as if part of or endorsed by government or bona fide corporation. They’ll use attractive models and even intimidation if they don’t get through the first shot.
Now more than ever we need to look at the ways we can fight the scammers.
Limit Personal Data
Putting too much information about yourself online can be hazardous. Professional scammers will be able to glean from other sources your name and vital data but are hampered by the fact they need your participation to access passwords and permissions. Don’t leave paperwork around that others can snag up and use a shredder if need be. Don’t leave mail in your box for days on end if you’re going out of town. Have a friend or family member pick it up for you. Don’t engage with phone calls from strangers and ask for confirmation regarding anyone claiming to be from a financial institution or charity. Even if they claim to be from the sheriff’s office, just say no and that you’ll stop by the office to confirm it. If they badger you, just tell them you’ve got their phone number and will report them and file harassment charges.
Never click on email attachments from strangers
Those inviting emails with attachments that say you’ve won money or this is a pic of some cute puppy or some hottie chick are high signs that you’re being phished for. These emails often include executable codes that once activated can wreak havoc on your computer and network. Often these scams are run by criminal organizations worldwide. Some are independent operatives. In either case their only goal is to steal or use information about you to take advantage of you.
Don’t click suspicious website links
This one is very difficult because there are so many ways scammers can mask their evil deeds. There you are surfing the web and you see a link on a website that looks inviting. You click it and next thing you know you’re had. Your browser and anti-virus software should forewarn and protect you but not everything is 100%. Stick to noted and trusted websites and not just anything clickable in an email or post.
Keep your anti-virus software up to date
There’s some very powerful anti-virus software out there and they’re designed to protect you. You must follow their instructions and set the software to automatically update itself. Spend some time studying up on anti-virus and anti-malware software and systems. They’re not that difficult to understand and you’ll be taking a proactive stance against hackers.
Fine tune your social networking page
Everyone and their brother is on Facebook, Twitter, and the many other social networking sites. These sites are a goldmine for scammers to dig up personal info and try to attack. What you and your friends and family put out about you is fair game even with protective settings. People blab about how they’ll be going out for the evening or extended vacations and burglars just drool. They know you’ll not be home. The scammers can put together a profile of your birthplace, family maiden names, and more. Keep your social networking profile conservative and ask friends and family to be just as careful.
Watch who you communicate with
It’s fun to chat with old friends and long lost family on the web as well as new friends. As chummy as they may be you should take into account that they may not be the same people you knew. They may have fallen toward the dark side and are looking for ways to exploit you. Just like in any relationship let caution take hold and make them earn your trust and allegiance. Sometimes a friend or family member might get hacked and unbeknownst to you the hacker may just know when to strike and gather that information and trust from you. Once inside your circle of trust you’ll be vulnerable. Look at what people ask you. Are they asking about your money and financial situation? Are they asking about when you’ll be home? Using your phone or programs like Skype you can verify who the person is and get more security about them overall.
The bottom line here is that we’re swimming in a sea of scammer sharks and your best protection starts with you. Keep a sharp eye out, use the available protective software and don’t let your emotions get the best of you.