Internet fraud often consists of scams that con artists have been using for years – only now they have new medium and new victims to exploit.
Here are some tips to help you navigate safely through cyberspace:
- Shop online only with companies you know. If you don’t know a company, ask for a printed catalog before you decide to order electronically.
- Use a secure browser that will encrypt or scramble purchase information. If you don’t have encryption software, consider calling the company’s 800 number, faxing your order, or paying with check. Or look for software that can be downloaded from the Internet for free.
- Never give anyone your bank account number, social security number, or other personal information that isn’t absolutely needed to complete a transaction.
- Never give out your Internet password. Your online provider will not ask for your password other than at first log-in. Change your password often and be creative. Use a combination of letters and numbers, uppercase and lowercase.
- Make sure your children know never to give out their full name, address, or phone number.
- Parents can install software to block access to sites with distasteful or hazardous content and control access to chat rooms, news groups, and messages from other subscribers.
Top Scams on the Internet
- Pyramid schemes offering a chance to invest in an up-and-coming company with a guaranteed high return. You invest and must ask others to do the same. But when the pyramid collapses everyone loses – except the person at the top.
- Internet-related services that are not delivered, such as designing a website. Equipment that isn’t delivered or is a lower quality than promised.
- Business opportunities of franchises that are represented as more profitable than they really are.
- Work-at-home schemes where individuals need to invest money in start-up services but don’t earn enough money to recover the initial investment.
25 Ways to Guard Your Online Privacy
by Leon Erlanger former Editor of PC Magazine
1. Don’t reply to ANY unsolicited emails. Even unsubscribing will alert the senders that your email address is being used.
2. Use your messaging software’s filtering tools to reject mail from your frequent spammers’ email addresses or with certain words (sex, for example) in the subject line.
3. Find out if your ISP has a spam blocking service. If not, sign up for a third party spam blocking service such as Brightmail (www.brightmail.com).
4. Contact the large directory services such as Bigfoot, infospace, Switchboard, Yahoo People Search, and whowhere, to tell them you don’t want to be listed.
5. Encrypt and digitally sign all your sensitive email messages. If your messaging software doesn’t support robust encryption, download PGP Freeware encryption software (http://web.mit.edu/network/pgp.html) and use that.
6. Use WinZip (www.winzip.com) software to compress and password protect your attachments.
7. To avoid cookies sent via email, use email client software, such as Eudora Pro, that lets you shut off its automatic Web Browser rendering engine.
8. Don’t read email on a machine that doesn’t belong to you or someone you trust. If you use a browser to read email on someone else’s machine, use the browser’s Clear History tool when you finish to prevent subsequent users from getting into your mailbox.
9. Don’t send sensitive personal messages on your work machine.
10. Keep your antivirus software updated at all times.
1. Upgrade your Web browser to 128-bit encryption.
2. Read Web site privacy policies carefully and make sure you understand them. Look on your favorite Web sites for privacy seals of approval from BBBOnline, TRUSTe, ePublicEye, or CPA WebTrust.
3. If you’re reluctant to provide certain information on an online form, don’t.
4. Set up a special free email account with Yahoo, Hotmail, or other free services and supply those addresses when you fill out forms.
5. Before you give your credit card number to any commerce site, make absolutely sure it’s secure. Look for a closed padlock icon at the bottom of the screen or https in the URL.
6. Delete all the cookies in your cookie directory (generally c:windowscookies) frequently.
7. Disable cookies in your browser (an extreme measure) or set your browser to alert you to cookies, or to accept only cookies that return to their original server or, better yet, install cookie management software (such as Webroot Software’s WindowWasher or The Limit Software’s CookieCrusher) to control which cookies your PC will accept.
8. Use an anonymous browser such as Anonymizer to hide your identity and filter cookies.
9. If a Web site gives you the option to opt out of tracking, take it.
10. If you have a fast and constant DSL or cable connection, get some personal firewall software, such as Symantec’s Norton Personal FireWall or Network ICE’s BlackICE Defender, and install it, FAST!
11. Turn off file and printer sharing in Windows if you’re not using it. Intruders will have an easier time accessing your files if this is activated.
12. Elect not to accept news or updates from Web sites you visit.
13. Fake your return address when you use chat or newsgroups.
14. Turn off your Instant Messaging software when you’re not using it.
15. Set your Instant Messaging software to allow only people you trust (in your buddy list, for example) to access you.
Kids on the Internet
The Internet has opened up a world of information for anyone with a computer and a connection. Your children will learn about computers. But just as you wouldn’t send children near a busy road without some safety rules, you shouldn’t send them on to the information superhighway without rules of the road. Too many dangers from pedophiles to con artists can reach children (and adults) through the Internet.
- The best tool a child has for screening material found on the Internet is his or her brain. Teach children about exploitation, pornography, hate literature, excessive violence, and other issues that concern you so they know how to respond when they see this material.
- Choose a commercial online service that offers parental control features. These features can block contact that is not clearly marked as appropriate for children: chat rooms, bulletin boards, news groups, and discussion groups — or access to the Internet entirely.
- Purchase blocking software and design your own safety system. Different packages can block sites by name, search for unacceptable words and block access to sites containing those words, block entire categories of material, and prevent children from giving out personal information.
- Monitor your children when they’re online and monitor the time they spend online. If a child becomes uneasy or defensive when you walk into the room or when you linger, this could be a sign that he or she is up to something unusual or even forbidden.
Tell Your Children . . .
- Always to let you know immediately if they find something scary or threatening on the Internet.
- Never to give out their name, address, telephone number, password, school name, parent’s name, or any other personal information.
- Never to agree to meet face to face with someone they’ve met online.
- Never to respond to messages that have bad words or seem scary or just weird.
- Never to enter an area that charges for services without asking you first.
- Never to send a picture of themselves to anyone without your permission.
- I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents’ work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents’ permission.
- I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
- I will never agree to get together with someone 1: “meet” online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.
- I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.
- I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If :1 do 3: will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the service provider.
- I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online and appropriate sites for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.
Parents Should . . .
- Never give out identifying information such as home address, school name, or telephone number. This is true especially in a public chat room or bulletin board. Moreover, be sure you’re dealing with someone both you and your child know and trust before giving it out via E-mail. Think carefully before revealing any personal information such as age, marital status, or financial information. Consider using a pseudonym or not listing your child’s name if your service allows it.
- Get to know the services your child uses. If you don’t know how to log on, get your child to show you. Find out what types of information are offered and whether there are ways for parents to block out objectionable material.
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with another computer user without parental permission. If a meeting is arranged, make the first one in a public spot, and be sure to accompany your child.
- Never respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, threatening, or make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage your children to tell you if they encounter such messages. If you or your child receives a message that is harassing, of a sexual nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message to your service provider and ask for their assistance.
- Should you become aware of the transmission, use, or viewing of child pornography while online, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by calling 1-800-843- 5678. You should also notify your online service.
- Remember that people online may not be who they seem. Because you can’t see or even hear the person, it would be easy for someone to misrepresent him or herself. Thus, someone indicating that “she” is a “12-year-old girl” could be a 40-year-old man.
- Remember that everything you read online may not be true. Any offer that seems “too good to be true” probably is. Be very careful about any offers that involve your coming to a meeting or having someone visit your house.
- Be sure to make this a family activity. Consider keeping the computer in a family room rather than the child’s bedroom. Get to know their “online friends” just as you get to know all of their other friends.
- Set reasonable rules and guidelines for computer use by your children. Discuss these rules and post them near the computer as a reminder. Remember to monitor their compliance with these rules, especially when it comes to the amount of time your children spend on the computer.
Safety on the Internet
There are several ways to protect your children from exposure to pornography, explicit language and other inappropriate interactions on the Internet. Use an online service that gives you good parental control. Familiarize yourself with your Parental Control Center and use it to block:
Chat-rooms, forums, conference rooms and member rooms: These are the areas of greatest risk for exposure to unwanted exchanges. They are not set up for children and are not a good way to spend their time or your money.
Instant messages: These are immediate person-to-person conversations. They can only be viewed by the sender and receiver.
Bulletin Board Services: These again are freewheeling interest driven exchange areas. They are not necessary for children.
News Groups: You have the option to block all news groups or to use a program that blocks news groups by specific words. Programs are now available which help parents keep open access to appropriate news groups and to block all news groups with potentially explicit material.
Use the Log option described earlier and check it at least once a week. Do you know what areas your children are accessing? Do you know how much time they are spending online?
More simply stated, set up your system so your children are able to use the Internet as a resource not as an interactive system. It’s greatest value lies in this area and the risks are minimal in this area. If you’re not sure how to do this, call your service provider and they will walk you through the steps.
If you’re looking for hot collectible or simply a good deal, online options may appeal to you. But before you place a cyber-bid, consider how online auction houses work. Like a traditional “live” auction, the highest bidder “wins.” That’s where the similarity ends. Because an online auction house doesn’t have the merchandise, the highest bidder deals directly with the seller to complete the sale.
If you’re the highest bidder, the seller typically will contact you by e-mail to arrange for payment and delivery. Most sellers accept credit cards, and arrange a third-party escrow agent to collect your payment, the product your buying, and processing delivery of each. Be cautious, however, if the seller asks you to pay by certified check our money order.
Some online sellers have put items up for auctions, taken the highest bidder’s money, and never delivered the merchandise. What’s more, consumers who paid by certified check our money order had little recourse when it came to getting their money back.
Follow these tips before you bid in an online auction:
- Try to paid by credit card. If you don’t get the merchandise, you can challenge the charges with your credit card issuer.
- Ask about using escrow agent, or paying by COD. Most escrow services charge a fee, so you may want to consider this option only for larger purchases.
- Verify the sellers identity. It you can’t, consider this a red flag and avoid doing business with the seller. Some sellers may use a forged email header, making it impossible to contact them if you need to.
- Ask how you’ll get follow up service, if you need it. Many sellers don’t have the expertise our facilities to provide service for the goods they sell. Is this important to you?
- Avoid impulse bids and purchases. Online options may be enticing, but are you really getting the best price?
Ask about return policies. Returning merchandise to an online seller may be difficult. For more information about fraud on the Internet, visit the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov.