Latest scams and how to avoid them

Over the years, we have come to rely on the Internet to fulfill many of our needs – the need to keep in touch with our friends and colleagues, the need to save time and our nerves when doing shopping, executing financial transactions, submitting our tax returns, and many other things we did before in person or by phone.

But, on the Internet is way more easier to impersonate someone and to scam people. You can never be completely certain that the person you’re “talking” to is the person you think it is. Malicious links that lead to malware, phishing schemes and spam seem to be everywhere you look.

We have all been on the receiving end of emails that purport to be from our bank, various organizations and institutions, online retailers, “friends” in need of money, “girls” who want to chat with us, the IRS, and many other legitimate-seeming sources. In time, we have grown accustomed to receiving at least a couple of them a day and to spot the bad apples. Or so we think.

The truth is that as long as these scams work, they will be present. And since they are still here, it means that people still fall for them. Although, one must admit that the scammers are becoming more ingenious by the day.

Jean Chatzky, the financial editor for NBC’s “Today”, explaines the latest scams and how to avoid them.

Phone calls
The scammers have done the whole circle and came back to the oldie-but-goldie phone phishing scam. This time around, banks have change the way they update their customers, and criminals have followed suit. “Typically, you’ll see a case where the phone rings early in the morning with an automatic recording asking you to re-authorize your bank account by entering your account number and password,” says Peter Cassidy with the Anti-Phishing Working Group. Also, you might receive a similar request via text messaging.

What to do? Hang up or save the text message and call the bank to check upon the legitimacy of the phone call or message – this way not only you will be able to avoid being scammed, but also help the bank and other customers by reporting the fraud. A good rule of thumb is to never give our any kind of personal information if you weren’t the one who called first.

Lately, our planet and its inhabitants have been hit by many natural and man-caused disasters. Katrina, Haiti, the Indonesian tsunami – to name just a few occurrences that have been followed by fake emails and websites asking for donations. Many of those looked and seemed pretty legitimate.

What to do? Don’t fall prey to the sense of urgency these emails and sites try to convey. Second-guess and check everything. Think things over for a couple of days. Use websites like and to find charities to support. Invest in good anti-phishing software.

If you fall for a scam, contact your bank and/or credit card company immediately, so that they can revoke the card and close the account. Notify the police and the Federal Trade Commission. Change passwords on all your online accounts. Monitor your accounts for suspicious and unauthorized transactions.

Social networking
The personal information available on accounts on various social networks is to thieves like honey to a bear and can be heavily misused.

What to do? Be careful who you “friend” on social networks. Restrict the amount of personal information you put on your account. Be vary of unknown people asking you too many personal questions – they might end up impersonating you and applying for credit cards. Check with your friends if there is truth in the plea for money they sent you over the network or through an email – it’s highly likely that their accounts have been hijacked and are now being used to scam people out of their hard-earned money. Keep your profile private.

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