Following on from the July edition, this month we take a look at the last four of seven internet scams that even the smartest people fall for.
THE FREE WI-FI HOTSPOT
How it works: A criminal sets up an open-access Wi-Fi hotspot in a coffee shop or airport that’s connected to his or her laptop. Once you join, this person has access to your computer and mines it for financial and personal data.
How to avoid it: In the settings on your computer and phone, make sure your device does not automatically join open Wi-Fi networks. Turn on the option “Ask to join new networks.” Keep your Wi-Fi turned off unless you are actively using it. If you would like to join the Wi-Fi network at a private business, ask an employee what the correct network name is before joining. If you are visiting a public place such as an airport, search the Web ahead of time to confirm the official Wi-Fi network’s name. Do not conduct financial transactions on any of these networks. If you travel frequently, invest in your own password-protected hotspot to carry with you.
THE POP-UP SCAREWARE
How it works: As you’re browsing the Web, a pop-up window alerts you that your computer is infected with viruses and worms. It encourages you to scan your device with a specific antivirus software program and then offers to clean the bogus bugs off for a small fee. If you download the program, it installs malicious software on your device, and these con artists then have your credit card information.
How to avoid it: Do not click on any links in pop-up ads. Install a robust, trusted antivirus program on your computer and run it regularly. Also install pop-up blockers on your browsers to prevent these scams from ever reaching you. Keep the important files on your computer backed up to an external drive, just in case.
THE TOO-GOOD-TO-BE-TRUE DATING PROFILE
How it works: A con artist sets up a phony dating profile with either completely made up information or photos and data stolen from a real person. He or she lures you in with messages, photos and phone calls. But they keep backing out of meeting in person and need help paying their bills this month. If you wire them money, you never hear from them again or they keep asking for more.
How to avoid it: Trust your gut. If someone keeps refusing to meet, he or she may not be real or might be interested in your wallet rather than you. Never send money to someone you met online.
THE HELP-SOMEONE-IN-NEED SCAM
How it works: A media-savvy scam artist sets up a crowd-funding page or charity website related to a topic that is getting lots of news coverage. It could be related to a natural disaster or a viral story about a person in need. They convince people to share the link on social media and send you emails about contributing to the cause. If you click on the link and donate money using a bank card, the scam artist can steal your bank information and drain your account or sell it to others who will.
How to avoid it: Don’t click on links you receive via email or those with suspicious Web addresses linked on social media. To donate to someone in need, search for the charity and go directly to its official site. Confirm that you are at the right place and it is secure—the URL should appear with a “https://” at the beginning—before handing over your bank card information.
So, the bottom line is to be vigilant at all times!