Friday, March 6, 2015

How to thwart today’s online scams

By Andrea Eldridge

I’m a big fan of technology making life easier. Unfortunately, it also makes it easier for scam artists to target potential victims. For many, the relative newness of using email and Web access for banking, shopping and paying bills leaves them vulnerable to crooks looking to steal personal information for financial gain. Trust your instincts and arm yourself with knowledge to protect yourself from these common scams:

* “Your account has been compromised.”

Whether you receive this notice via email, text or telephone, you’re typically directed to a website that downloads malicious software onto your computer or requests that you provide personal information, which the scammer will use to steal from you.

Web links can be “masked” to look like your bank or credit card company’s website, but clicking it takes you to a completely different site. To thwart this, hover your cursor over the link to see the actual address you’ll be directed to.

Stick to this simple rule: Never click on a link in an email or reply to an unsolicited message with personal information. Call the company or go directly to its website by typing the address into the browser bar yourself.

* “Click here for your chance to win!”

Now that so many of us frequent Facebook, it’s no surprise scam artists have started targeting our social networking activities. Common bait is the posting on a friend’s page with these enticing words: “I just signed up to win an iPad 2. Click here for your chance to win!” Click the link and you’ll be prompted to allow access to your Facebook account and personal information before being “entered into the contest.” The result? You end up with lots of spam and your personal data compromised or sold.

Pinterest, a hugely popular “shareable scrapbook” linked to Facebook, allows people to “pin” pictures to their boards that automatically link to outside websites. Beware of those encouraging you to “re-pin” for a reward, often a gift certificate to your favorite store. Provide your information to claim the nonexistent prize and, as with the iPad contest example, you expose yourself to data mining.

* “Oops, I overpaid you.”

Many buyers and sellers already know not to enter into an online transaction that requires an advance fee, or send a high-dollar item to a potential buyer without payment in escrow. One sneakier trick is the “overpayment” scam. A buyer makes a strong offer, and then sends you a check for more than the price you agreed upon. “Oops, do you mind wiring me the difference?” You wire the cash, his check bounces, and he disappears with your money.

* “You’re pre-approved.”

Then there’s the pre-approved credit card offer that requires a “small transaction fee” to process your application. You send money and never hear from the company again. Bottom line: Don’t provide information or payment in response to any unsolicited email, pop-up ad, Web contact or phone call.

* “Hi, this is Microsoft.”

A scam that takes advantage of concerns about viruses and spyware is becoming more common. You get a phone call out of the blue. The caller says she’s from Microsoft and an infection has been detected on your system. She can remove the virus if you’ll give her remote access to your PC and pay a small fee. While most PC users would know better than to click a pop-up ad with a similar message, the telemarketer can be quite convincing.

For the record, Microsoft will never contact you to say there’s a problem with your PC. The same goes for Dell, HP, Norton, etc. Don’t trust anyone who tells you they’ve discovered a problem with your PC, sight unseen, and then asks you to pay for repair. Hang up and, if you think there might be a legitimate problem, call your computer service company. And contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center (, a partnership of the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center.

For more on fighting Internet fraud, see the federal government’s list of resources at



Scripps Howard News Service

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .


    ‘Topping out': Sign a building beam at the Shrem Museum

    By Jeffrey Day | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Life after lawn: Fifty greens for shade

    By Katie F. Hetrick | From Page: A1

    Got sun? Indoor herbs can thrive on windowsills

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A3

    How can we know that the products we buy for our homes are safe?

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Quick home improvements that raise your resale value

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Spring-clean your kitchen in five easy steps

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

    Dryers: Homes’ energy guzzlers just got greener

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery

    UCD improving farming, food production with fewer pesticides

    By Kathy Keatley Garvey | From Page: B6 | Gallery

    PSAs highlight area nonprofits

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

    Peripheral neuropathy support offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

    Workshop eyes creating peace through creative play

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

    Museum brick sales to end this month

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

    Cabrillo Club plans membership dinner

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6

    Pig out at Pig Day Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Porkers on display at Hattie Weber Museum

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    St. John’s shows off cuisine at brunch

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

    Seniors serious about fitness

    By Savannah Holmes | From Page: A11 | Gallery



    Obama’s world is a dangerous place

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

    Some convicts don’t deserve parole hearings

    By Tom Elias | From Page: B4

    Here’s how to make college cheaper

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4



    Marsh provides radio images of a ‘magical’ Aggie hoops season

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Blue Devil volleyballers cruise in home opener

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    DHS girls track and field team reloads for 2015

    By Dylan Lee | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    UCD women fall at UCR

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Aggie men clinch Big West crown

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Sports briefs: Bella Vista slips past DHS softballers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12



    Rec Report: Looking ahead to spring break

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

    What’s happening

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: B5

    Wineaux: A local diamond in the rough, revisited

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A9



    Steve Kiser’s work on display at Gallery 1855

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Tables available at Vinyl and Music Fair

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A9

    ‘The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel': Second-rate

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ auditions set

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12

    Hugh Masekela and Vusi Mahlasela celebrate Mandela’s legacy

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    Learn from experts at ‘Art of Painting’ conference

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A12 | Gallery

    Tom Brousseau to visit ‘Live in the Loam’ on KDRT

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12



    Honey, we shrank the SUV — and Europe loves it

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B3 | Gallery





    Comics: Friday, March 6, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B10