This afternoon I received a concerning direct message on Twitter: “FYI this profile on twitter [link] is spreading nasty blogs around about you”. In a panic I clicked the link. What popped up was strange. The page, which looked an awful lot like Twitter, stated that for security purposes I had been logged out and needed to provide my password to log back in. That seemed strange, so I took a quick look at the address bar and noticed that all the letters were there but they were all out of order; instead of “twitter.com” I read “itwtier.com”. What is that? That is called a scam.
What is an online scam and why should I care?
An online scam can take place by email, on Facebook, on Twitter– anywhere! Their purpose can range anywhere from spamming your friends, tricking you into sending money, or to extract sensitive information such as the password to your online banking account. Online scams can be as invasive and damaging as having your home broken into, so it is important to know and recognize the signs so that you can protect yourself.
How do I protect myself?
When you know the warning signs it is easy to protect yourself from online scams. Here are 5 basic signs of an online scam which will help you protect yourself:
1. I don’t know this person!
Trust is something that is earned. You wouldn’t trust just anyone on the street with your newborn and you should approach online communication with the same care as you do choosing a babysitter for your little bundle of joy. Never share personal information with someone whom you do not trust.
But, as you can see above, online scams are not limited to people whom you do not know. Be aware when a family member, friend, or coworker is behaving out-of-character, is asking you for money online, or sending you suspicious links. This might be a sign that his or her email or social networking account may have been compromised.
2. They’re asking me for money.
Never send money online and be wary of family or friends who send requests for money. For example, a common online scam involves one’s email account being used to send out emails to his or her contact list stating something like the following: “I’m in London, England, and have been mugged. I’ve lost my passport and I need $$$$ to get home.”
3. They’re asking me for personal information.
Your insurer, your bank, or any other legitimate business will never ask for personal information by email. If you receive an email from your bank or other institution requesting personal information contact them immediately by phone or in person to report the communication.
4. This link looks “funny”.
If you’ve been sent a link by anyone you don’t trust or a link which you do not know to be trust worthy, do not click it! Do not share personal information with a website you do not trust. Check the address bar: does it say http:// or https://? Never share personal information of any kind with a website if the address does not begin with https://!
5. Something just seems suspicious!
Intuition is a powerful tool! If you feel there is something suspicious about someone or something’s behaviour you are probably correct.
What do I do if I’ve been the target of a scam?
- Learn more about all kinds of scams and scam reporting from the RCMP.
- Report suspicious behaviour to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Remember that legitimate people, companies, and brands are available by more methods of communication than just an email account. If you have a question about anything you’ve seen online contact the company directly. It is important for people and companies to know if, when, and how they are being impersonated.