Watch out for online scams
Computer hacker and cyber crime

Do you go online to shop, look for a job, find a pet, or even look for a place to live? You just might be getting scammed if you don’t know what you are doing. It is true and this is just the tip of the iceberg! It happened to me and it can happen to you. Digital thieves are getting tricky and if you aren’t aware of it, they are waiting for you to be their next victim.

How does this happen?

Easy, especially if you use public WiFi, even to do something simple like check your email. Everything you do on a WiFi is broadcast to anyone else connected to the same network. Just think of every click you make as a train of information. The thieves see you train coming a mile away and they hijack it and look in eat car to find what they are looking for. Often times, they just need your email address and maybe a phone number, which they can easily get if you are using your phone.

How did I find out I was being scammed?

I received an email from a company I do business with thanking me for an order I did not place. But something was off. The last four of the credit card didn’t match my card. So I did a lot of things. I called my internet company, I called my mobile phone company, I called the credit bureau and placed a hold on my credit account, and I called the police. My first thought was my identity was stolen. I needed to find out what was going on.

It was determined that scammers got my info while I was on vacation in Hawaii using the hotel WiFi. They got what they needed and started doing business. Th e poli e found out that the package was shipped locally to here in Fountain and contacted the lady living at the address the package was shipped to. And guess what? She was being scammed too! She thought she was doing a legitimate job by repackaging orders and shipping them to where her employer told her.

So now what?

Chances are, because of our digital age and the many, many methods of relaying information, these criminals are out of the country and may never be caught. They rely on your trust of a company, your ignorance of their tactics, and your lack of digital security. We have to do our due diligence to inform ourselves and keep our guard up. With that in mind, here are a few tips you can use to help safeguard your identity:

1. Always use a secure WiFi connection. If your mobile company offers it, pay for it. You can always use a VPN (virtual private network) as well. It keeps your data encrypted when you don’t have secure access.

2. Don’t trust an app because it is on Google Play or the App Store. Many thieves are using these now tO access your information with your permission!

3. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is!

4. Make sure you are doing business directly with the company. You know the little lock in your browser address bar? Make sure you see it there at all times!

5. Don’t ever click on links in email, even if they are warning you to check your account, pay a bill that is past due, or check on the status of your order. Always good directly to the website and login that way. Clicking on those links creates that train that thieves will use to track everything you type and everywhere you go.

6. Inform yourself about the various scams that are out there, and just be aware, new ones are popping up every day.

7. If you can, use gift cards with a low-balance when making purchases or paying bills online. Minimizing the access to your money and your bank is always best.

Sounds quite scary, doesn’t it? Maybe we won’t be able to protect ourselves 100% of the time, but we can hopefully, keep the risk low and infrequent. Plus, always report any incident to the police!

If you would like to hear more about my story, check out my podcast where I have Officer Matt Hewlett-Packard with the Financial Crimes Unit. He talks about many of the scams to watch out for and offers some more ideas you can use to help protect yourself from them.