Don't fall for these online scams

With Fall approaching, I thought it would be a good time to write about scams you could fall for online.

Since the start of the Internet, it seems like people have been trying to scam others to send them money online or give up their personal information.

I wrote about one such scam in 2015 when I had received a panicked text from a colleague asking me what I knew about a company who he had allowed to connect and clean their two home Macs. In this post I thought I would write a bit more general and outline a few different types of scams I c.

Hopefully, if nothing else, this will help you identify potential scams and not fall for them.

Phishing email scams
We've all seen these, I'm sure. You get an email from your bank, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) account, email provider or some other account, telling you there is an issue and you need to click on the button or link to login and fix the problem. The emails look real, they usually have official logos and seem to be coming from the correct place. But, when you click the link, you're taken to a site that, while again, it looks proper, it is not real.

What the scammer is hoping you'll do is login on this look-alike site so they can capture your login data, allowing them to login to your account later on (or worse).

To protect yourself when you get one of these emails, first ask yourself it the sender would even have this email address, then launch a browser and go to your bookmark (or do a search for the site address) and login there. Chances are (like 99 percent of the time), you'll not see any issues with your account and should just delete the email.

The Nigerian scam
Probably one of the oldest scams out there, you get an email from a prince or princess telling you how hard their life is because in order to get the money their father left them, they need your help. But, in order to get their money out, you need to pay a fee, but don't worry, you'll be rewarded with a portion of their money. This scam also is sometimes seen as a lottery scam, where the details are different, but the basic premise is the same... help!

This scam started first in physical postal mail, then came by fax and now by email.

To protect yourself, know that the prince or princess does not need your help to get their money and delete the email.

Fake antivirus software or software update scam
This usually happens when you're on a website, a pop-up will appear alerting you that your virus or some other software is out of date and you need to immediately click the link to fix. What is funny (to me) about this is usually the pop-up has misspellings and is for software the user doesn't even have on the machine. Further, I've heard and seen these tell Mac users that their Microsoft Windows software has been compromised.

In this scam, if you click the button, usually some software will download and could get installed, giving hackers access to your computer or other data.

To protect yourself, be aware of what software you're being notified about. Usually I recommend to people to close the pop-up window and launch the actual software to see if there is truly an issue with the program.

Fake news scam
Politics aside, in the age of fake news, there is little worse than fake news that looks like it's on a real website. This is not really a scam in that you will lose money, but it may drive you crazy as you attempt to figure out what is real and what is not.

This scam usually works with a link on some site or social media that takes you to a page that looks like a legitimate news source. The thing is, it's not. It could be a site that has all the makings of a real site, but when you look at the URL at the top of the browser you will see the link has taken you to another site.

To protect yourself, be vigilant about what you're reading and know where you are online. Beyond that, make sure the source you're reading is a legit news outlet.

Grandchild scam
This is not necessarily online, but there is nothing scarier than getting a message from a family member telling you they need money to get out of a bind (jail, a ticket, etc.). The person on the other end may sound like your family member, but in reality it's someone who is trying to get you to give up personal information or your credit card number. They usually play on your emotions and want you to make quick decisions about what to do.

To protect yourself, verify and consider what the person is telling you. If you know your family member is not traveling, that is a good first step. Then, ask questions a stranger would not know an answer to. Finally, call a number you know is theirs.

Tech Support scam
This is maybe one of my favorites to mess with the scammer, when I have time. It works like this. You get an email, text or call (usually a call) from someone who says they are from Microsoft or Apple and they have detected an issue with your computer. Their goal is to have you give them access to your machine, after you've paid a fee by credit card (usually recurring). Once they have access to your machine, who knows what they may get into!

When I get calls like this, I sometimes like to ask them questions or see if they can fix random other things, never giving them access or my information. Once, when the person said I was having Windows issues, I tried to get him to help me "fix" a stuck window... in my house.

To protect yourself, know that Apple and Microsoft will never call you and let you know something is wrong with your machine. That goes for Facebook, or the IRS and the Social Security Administration (also ways I hear people are getting scammed to give up their personal information).

Final thoughts
Scammers are good. They have had years to refine their message and they know what people fall for.

The bottom line in all of these is to be aware of what is going on, don't blindly click or give up your personal information and remember if you have any doubt to not do what is being asked of you. You can always contact me and I'd be happy to help you through any of these types of situations... I've seen them all before!


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