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Combating Online Fraud

A few weeks ago, I came across an article in the Sun Sentinel explaining how two local women had recently fallen victim to a new online scam. The article went in-depth, explaining how online scammers are now targeting people with a newer type of email scam called an imposter scam. According to the Federal Trade Commission, the top fraud of 2020 was imposter scams, with government and business imposters being among the most common, consumers reported a loss of over 1.2 billion dollars to these scams.

Basically, with this scheme, hackers phish people with emails about extending a service plan from a name-brand company. In this case, it was Geek Squad. As with most phishing scams, the email is the trojan horse used to access the target's personal computer or device. Once access is gained, the hackers demand a ransom to return access to the person. What is super sad about this story is that one of the people ended up paying over 50K to the scammers in the form of untraceable gift cards to various companies in South Florida, and the victim was ashamed to tell her family and friends about what she was going thru when the events were happening.

As we find ourselves spending more and more time online, we must realize that these scammers are fine-tuning their methods, updating their tactics, and putting their efforts behind scams leading them to the best results. You know you don't really hear much anymore about people being told they just inherited a large amount of wealth from a previously unknown uncle who happened to be royalty in an obscure African nation. But a handful of years ago, that storyline was out there quite prominently as it must have led to some good results for these scammers. Just like anything, they evolve their tactics and techniques to thrive and survive.

With all that being said, the recommendations we make to keep yourself safe while spending more and more time online remain consistent and easy for us to put into action. It really does come down to being aware of potential traps to share your information.

Here are a few best practices to always consider:

  1. Do not click on a link from an unknown source, even if the sender appears legitimate.
  2. Do not give your personal information to an unknown site, or a website whose address doesn't start with "https"
  3. Do not open ANY attachments from unknown sources - ever.
  4. Always use legitimate browsers when operating online such as Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari, and be mindful of what network you are using to connect to the internet.
  5. Change your passwords frequently

Again, while it is alarming, the best defense is the awareness that dangers exist, and taking a few small steps to ensure you are operating safely can make all the difference.

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