How to Prevent Online Fraud

We’ve all been warned about con artists, and most of us probably think we’re too smart to fall for their scams. However, being lured is easier than you’d think. Remember, these are professional liars who are skilled at gaining your trust and using that trust to steal from you. Unfortunately, the online con artist is even more dangerous, because he doesn’t need to meet you at all. He just has to observe you and use your habits against you.

There are two main kinds of online fraud – direct and indirect.

Direct fraud

Direct methods include phishing, where, for example, a scammer builds a website that looks genuine. It may be a clone of a site you use regularly with a similar URL that you might accidentally type in, such as the website of your bank, your email or even Google. The phisher will send you an email prompting you to log into your account. They might claim there’s an error or offer a reward you have to redeem.

Sometimes, they’ll even pretend there’s a security scare and advise you to change your password. Keyloggers within the email or clone site can then collect your log in details, including extra security measures. Alternatively, you may receive an email with an attachment and when you open it, it infects your computer with data-gathering software.

Once the fraudsters have access to your account logins, they can pose as you and mail your contacts, replicating the scam. They might also read emails where your passwords are stored – the kind you receive when you first sign up for a new service.

Indirect Fraud

The indirect method is harder to detect, and sometimes works in combination with a phishing expedition.

On many social sites, you inadvertently give out risky information. By looking at your account, someone observant can tell your birthday, where you were born, where you went to school, and the middle names of your family members. All this is easily available on your Facebook profile, or by geo-tagged photos. They’re common security questions, so if someone can guess or confirm your answers, they can log in as you and steal your data.

Identity theft is the most common form of online fraud. Apart from data, fraudsters can access your bank account, or run up a bill on your credit card. Fortunately, there are things you can do to reduce your exposure. Set your social media to private, and avoid inadvertently doxxing yourself. Turn off geo-taggers and don’t publish location-specific updates.

Wait until you get back home to update vacation pics or ‘night out’ posts so fraudsters (and burglers) can’t tell where you are or when you’re not home. Double-check and even triple-check urls before you log on to a website, to be sure it’s not a clone. Use a spam filter in your email and an anti-virus on your devices. Pay for goods using a verified payment processor instead of typing details on potentially insecure sites.

For more information on preventing online fraud, or to sign up for a merchant account, please call (888) 924-2743 or go to


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