September 17, 2013 | By: Laurie Campbell

Tips to save money : Delete the cyber thieves! Notes about online security and personal money management.

It's time for some tips to save money to help our readers avoid being scammed.  You've just been informed by email that you’ve won a large sum of money in a lottery. For a second or two, giddiness overcomes you. But as you inspect the email message closely, you note that the announcement of your winnings comes from a sender identified as and you get to thinking: Is it just a coincidence that the official sending the message carries the name of a Canadian multi-millionaire who just spent years in prison for fraud? At this point, you ought to know instantly that you are the target of an email scam. The example is one of many kinds of online cybercriminal activities now rocketing through digital space and time. Doubtless you’ve been a target yourself. The cons are abundant, which suggest the thieves are involved in lucrative undertakings as they stalk hapless victims, particularly the elderly. Maybe they’ll get you, as they once unsuccessfully tried to get me, through a very convincing email (colourful logos included) from your bank asking you to simply click on a link for an account update. One push of the computer key and kaboom, all the confidence you might have in your personal money management skills goes down the virtual toilet as money from a $5,000 investment fund gets transferred to your chequing account before disappearing into thin air. The tip to save money here is always do your due diligence when evaluating strange emails. If the cybercriminals can’t get you to give up the password to your online bank account directly, they’ll find other ways to steal your identity by poisoning your computer with spyware. These days we’ve all got to keep our guard up in relation to emails and social media. In fact, I’d say cyber security has now become a key element of personal money management, along with monthly budgeting and tracking spending. We ought to be alert to the types of  scams that are out there, and be vigilant in avoiding them. This comes from great credit education. Beyond the lottery fraud mentioned there are many other types of scams.  Take these money saving tips and be aware of what may come after your bank account... • The online credit card/banking scam. This widely used scam often lures you through fear. You receive messages such as, “Urgent! Your account will be deactivated,” or “Emergency! Your account has been breached.” So you click on the link out of panic, not stopping to consider that no real financial service would threaten to close your account in this way. • The survey scam. Somehow, a cyber wise guy phishing social media has identified your interest in some social issue, and dangles it like bait to get your participation in a survey. But in the process of clicking on the survey link, malicious spyware or malware is installed on your computer, and the cyber criminal is on the digital road to your riches. • The destitute relative or friend scam. The elderly in particular are targets of this scam. The cyber criminals get the names of those the target may know and then assume these names and use them in emails. Often, a call for help comes from a friend or relative facing trouble while travelling. A wallet is claimed to have been lost, or a robbery is said to have taken place. The emails urgently ask that money be transferred by wire immediately. • The mystery shopper scam. These scams are quite prevalent. They promise to make you a lot of money in your prospective role as a mystery shopper, but the giveaway that criminals are in charge of operations is evident in requests that you pay the service money up front. Or you may receive a fraudulent cheque that bounces only after you’ve paid some portion of the cheque’s claimed value for study materials that of course will never arrive. • The overseas account scam. Most of us are onto these preposterous scams. Maybe a guy named Eric von Hapsburg says you can get a big cut of the cash sitting in an overseas bank or investment fund. Maybe you are asked to pay a small fee to recover the funds, or maybe not. Either way, Mr. Hapsburg needs a response from you to transfer a sum to you often big enough to serve as the budget for a major Hollywood movie. • Social media scams. The drawback to using social media is that you’re bound to connect with cyber criminals who are very sophisticated in creating online hoaxes. The scams are particularly insidious because they can involve, for example, hacked Facebook profiles wherein names of your friends and associates are used in both social media and emails. If a friend claiming to be in Cuba contacts you for emergency funds, you ought to make sure the person isn’t in fact at home comfortably watching TV in downtown Toronto. Noteworthy social media scams include: • The pop culture quiz scam. Facebook users often receive requests to click on apps. And many of those apps involve participation in quizzes. Trouble is, those “Which Celebrity Do You Resemble” quizzes can catch you up in regular monthly charges after you’ve supplied the quiz maker with your cell phone number. So anxious are some to confirm their similarity with George Clooney or Taylor Swift that they don’t stop to face the possibility of trouble. • The must-see photo scam. You may receive a message with a link from a friend saying a naked photo of you has appeared on Facebook for all the world to see. You click on the link and thereby supply the cyber criminal with your Facebook (or Twitter) account login information. •  “Tortured puppy” and other charity scams. Charity fraud is a troubling social media concern. Messages involving stories and photos about sick babies and tortured puppies, to name a couple of examples, can really pull on the heartstrings. Caught up with emotion, people click `on the charity links and make donations by credit card thinking their money is going to a worthy cause. But in fact the money is only going toward some cyber criminal’s beer and marijuana fund. People also tend to share these phony charity links, doing all the phishing work for the criminals. There are other scams to learn about, and I recommend more online research into the matter. Meanwhile, with awareness of the scams comes good news about how to deal with them and save your money. The process is simple. Don’t click on puzzling or suspicious links ever, just trash or ignore them. Or do your research to flesh out the truth behind the communication. Above all, when the contact is familiar to you and asks for action that in any way involves finances, always confirm the source before clicking or taking any steps whatsoever. Also, make sure your computer is equipped with security features.


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