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Online Scams and How to Avoid Them

Scams and rip offs have been around as long as people have been around to implement them, but they've reached new heights – and new levels of danger – on the Internet.

The best way to avoid scams is to trust your instincts. If you wouldn't accept a ‘pitch’ from a person you just met on the street, don't accept it from a virtual person.

Password Hijack
It's easy to remember your middle name or birthday, but they make easy-to-guess passwords. Make sure your passwords include symbols, numbers, and lower and upper case letters. If you need to use security questions, make up unusual answers.

Identity Theft
It's real simple – never give your social security number or other identifying information online. If you're visiting a site where you routinely do business, and are asked to re-enter information they already have, it's best to contact the business by phone to confirm.

Fake Bank Emails
Banks and other financial institutions never send emails asking you to enter or confirm your username or password. Scammers are getting pretty good at making an email look official, but never click a link from an email to your bank. It's likely to lead to trouble. Always use a bookmark or type the address in your browser's address bar.

Money Transfer Requests
Western Union is not emailing you to request a money order or wire transfer, and your grandchild is not being held in a Canadian prison until you do so. Anytime you are asked to deposit a check or money order and wire money back, that money is on a one-way trip – out of your hands and into theirs. Such requests should be ignored.

Email Sales
Emails announcing cheap merchandise from unfamiliar sites are an invitation to trouble. Don't click the links. Even when shopping at legitimate online retailers, always go directly to the site rather than from an email link.

The Job Offer
The unemployment rate is high and scammers prey on desperation. If it sounds too good to be true, it is. You won't make mega bucks by becoming a "mystery shopper." Never invest money in a "work at home" scheme because you'll never get it back.

You Have a Virus!
Never click on a pop-up that says you have a virus. It will actually download a virus to your hard drive. Purchase a good antivirus program and follow directions for use.

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