Tuesday, April 6, 2010

How to reduce the risk of online fraud

Online fraud can be annoying and costly for you and might pose serious risks to your computer. You can help reduce online fraud by learning to recognize scams and taking steps to avoid them.

Identity theft has been around for a while, but the cost to consumers has risen since criminals have gone online. Criminals who want to gain access to your online accounts use phishing, hoaxes, or other scams to obtain personal information such as your name, social security number, account name, or password.

Common types of online scams

Here are some common types of scams that you should learn to recognize and avoid.

  • Phishing scams are fraudulent e-mail messages or Web sites designed to trick you into entering personal or financial information. Phishing scams often spoof companies you know and trust, like your bank, and might contain urgent messages with threats of account closures or other alarming consequences. Some phishing e-mail messages and Web sites contain malicious or unwanted software that can enter your computer if you click links or file attachments. For more information, see ID theft and phishing scams.
  • Hoaxes include lottery scams and advanced fee fraud scams. For example, an e-mail message might request your help in a financial transaction—such as the transfer of a large sum of money into your account. Or a message might contain a claim that you have received a large inheritance from someone you do not know, or that you have won a lottery that you did not enter. For more information, see Scams that promise money, gifts, or prizes.

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