Online Fraud Prevention: 14 Tips

Tips for avoiding online fraudAs Christmas creeps closer, many of us will turn to the Internet for quick and easy online shopping. But as our reliance on the Internet rises, so too does Internet fraud. According to a report from iovation, a mobile device security and reputation management company, online fraud claims, particularly from mobile devices, have increased by some 300 per cent. There are a number of ways scammers will try to get both your money and your personal information. Luckily, there are red flags to look for and security measures you can take to protect yourself.

 How Online Scammers Get You

Scammers will try anything to get your money. Sometimes they’ll offer you a product at an extremely low price as a ploy to get your personal and financial information. Sometimes they’ll take your money and send you something worthless – or nothing at all.

Most online fraud occurs through online auction sites, which are basically online flea markets where you can bid on items new and used. Often, sellers will misrepresent the item they’re selling by sharing an image of a product that looks nothing like the one actually up for sale.

Slick Buyers and Sellers

Some online auction sites can be rigged by both the sellers and buyers. For instance, if you’re selling a product online, the buyer can enter a low bid, followed by a higher bid through another account. At the very last minute, the buyer will withdraw the higher bid, leaving only the lower bid to go through. If you are the one buying the product in question, sellers will sometimes (illegally) boost the bidding price by entering fake bids. According to the RCMP, sellers are the focus of most Internet auction fraud complaints. The RCMP offers tips on how to protect you from online fraud. Check them out!

 How to Protect Yourself from Online Fraud

1.    Take the time to learn about the online auction site first. Not all sites are created equal. Be sure you know the rules and regulations of the site you want to use.

2.    Beware of cheque overpayment scams. In this type of scam, buyers will send you a cheque for more than the agreed amount and then ask for a refund for the extra money. It’s their hope that they will receive your refund before their cheque bounces.

3.    Deal with reputable companies only. Do a little research. Does the company you’re handing your money over to have a good reputation? A reputable company will have no problems openly sharing information, including location, contact details and membership to organizations (such as the Better Business Bureau) right on their site.

4.    Read the privacy policy clearly. The privacy policy will outline how the company collects, protects and uses your personal information. Be sure to read it before sharing anything.

5.    Stick to the secure methods of payment. If the seller asks you to pay via cash or money order, don’t do it. It’s untraceable and you likely won’t see your money again. Always use a credit card, which has a built-in security layer and the ability to stop payments.

Pro Tip: Ensure your credit card has additional purchase protection, like the Smart Cash MasterCard® credit card or the Platinum Plus® MasterCard® credit card.

6.    Beware of phishing emails. Do not share personal or financial information with insecure sites. It may be a phishing scam. As a rule of thumb, treat all unsolicited emails in your inbox as potential scams.

7.    Use an escrow service. An escrow service is a reliable third party. What they do is hold the buyer’s information until the product has been shipped. Once it’s en route, the payment information is released.

8.    Only online shop from your home computer. Since there’s always the possibility that computers, particularly those found in public spaces such as cafes and libraries, might not be secure, don’t share your personal information on them – ever.

9.    Don’t click on email links. If you want to buy something, visit the seller’s site directly. Never, ever click on links sent in emails.

10. Be sure that your connection is secure. The RCMP recommends verifying secure connections. “When shopping online, do not enter any financial information on a site if you see a broken key or an open padlock system in your Internet browser. This means the transaction is not secure and could be intercepted by a third party. When the key is complete or the padlock is locked, your browser is indicating a secure transaction.”

11. Consider another method of payment. If possible, use a credit card with a lower limit, or a single use card only.

12. Be sure to carefully check your bank statements each month. If you do decide to shop online, always validate your purchases on your bank statement. If possible, make notes of when you purchased each item and where you purchased it.

13. Don’t share unnecessary personal information. Never share your social insurance number, passport number, date of birth, or driver’s license details online.

14. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Most importantly, if you get the sneaking suspicion that something’s not right, trust your gut. It probably isn’t. 

 What Do I Do if I Think I’ve Been Scammed?

The RCMP have three actionable steps for you, should you be a victim of online shopping fraud.

1.    Contact your local police immediately.

2.    Report the fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre by calling 1-888-495-8501.

3.    Finally, be sure to report the fraud to the company you dealt with as well. 

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