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Avoiding Computer and Internet Scams Thumbnail

Avoiding Computer and Internet Scams

Have you been a victim of a clever phishing and spoofing scam? If so, you have a lot of company as these scams have become rampant.

How does this happen? Phishing scammers create text messages, authentic-looking emails, or internet pages to entice victims into disclosing your personal financial information, including bank or investment account numbers, credit card numbers, your Social Security number, or Medicare ID. These senders are “phishing” for your private account information to commit fraud or identity theft against you.

The messages may appear to be from organizations you do business with, such as your bank or insurance provider. They may threaten to close your account or take other action if you don’t respond. Examples include:

  • “We suspect an unauthorized transaction on your account. To ensure that your account is not compromised, please click the link below and confirm your identity.”
  • “During our regular verification of accounts, we couldn’t verify your information. Please click here to update and verify your information.”
  • “Our records indicate that your account was overcharged. You must call us within 7 days to receive your refund.”

Scammers may disguise or “spoof” an email address to make it look like it has been sent from someone you may know. You may receive a spoof email that looks like it is coming from a friend or family member who needs money to deal with an emergency.

Scam artists sometimes use the phone or computer to try to break into your computer, claiming to be a computer specialist associated with a well-known company. They might state that your computer has been infected with a virus or malware. Their goal is to trick you into giving them remote access or to pay for software you don’t need as they try to install malware to steal passwords and account numbers.

What Can I Do to Avoid Computer and Internet Scams and Protect Myself?

Victims of phishing or tech support scams can also become victims of identity theft. Act promptly to avoid financial loss or damage to your credit.

· Use trusted security software and make sure you regularly update it.

· Never email financial information or account numbers. Delete email and text messages that ask you to confirm or provide personal information. Legitimate companies do not ask for this information via email or text.

· Do not open any message that comes from an unfamiliar source. If you open a suspicious message, delete it.

· Be cautious about opening attachments and downloading files from emails, regardless of who sent them. These files can contain viruses or other malware that can compromise your computer’s security.

· Do not click on links or call telephone numbers provided in the message.

· Do not rely on caller ID alone to authenticate a caller. Criminals spoof caller ID numbers; the call can appear to be calling from a local number or legitimate company. If you’re concerned about your account or need to reach an organization that you do business with, call the number on your financial statements or on the back of your credit card or in the telephone book. Do not call the telephone number that the caller or spoof website provides you.

· If you receive an email that looks like it is from a friend or relative asking you to send money, call them to verify that the email really came from them.

· Use passwords that will be hard for hackers to guess. Use a mix of numbers, symbols, and capital and lowercase letters instead of easily guessed words. Consider changing every 3 months.

· Shut down your PC when you are not using it.

· Never give control of your computer to a third party who calls you unexpectedly.

· Do not rely on online searches to find technical support or obtain a company’s contact information. Look for company contact information on the software package or on your receipt. Scammers sometimes place online ads to convince you to call them.

For practical tips to help you guard against internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information, visit OnGuardOnline.gov.

How to Respond to a Phishing Attack or a Tech Support Scam

Even with security software, chances are high that some scamming messages will get through.

· If you think you have downloaded malware from a scam tech support site, do not panic.

· Update or download legitimate security software and scan your computer.

· Follow the instructions of the security software to eliminate any problems.

· Change any passwords that you gave out. If you use those passwords for other accounts, change those passwords, too.

· If you paid for bogus services with a credit card, dispute the transactions with your credit card provider.

· Check your statements for any other charges you didn’t make, and dispute those as well.

For more information, go to: consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid phishing-scams. If you believe you are the victim of Internet crime, or if you are aware of an Internet crime, you can file a complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.


If you are not currently working with FPS, we would be happy to talk with you. Questions? We are here to help.

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Best regards,

Janet Rhodes Friedman, CFP®, CDFA®, MBA



Financial Planning Solutions, LLC (FPS) is a Registered Investment Advisor. Financial Planning Solutions, LLC (FPS) provides this blog for informational and educational purposes only. Nothing in this blog should be considered investment, tax, or legal advice. FPS only renders personalized advice to each client. Information herein includes opinions and source information that is believed to be reliable. However, such information may not be independently verified by FPS. Please see important disclosures link at the bottom of this page.

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