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Avoiding Email Scams and Identity Theft

As technology evolves, cyber criminals become more creative, employing e-mail scams, tricky pop-ups, and social media ruses to take advantage of unsuspecting Internet users. Through phishing, cyber criminals gain access to victims' personal data by posing as legitimate companies or authorities providing important services or information. Criminals use manipulation and hoaxes to steal sensitive information such as addresses, online passwords, and financial information, or infect computers with viruses. Don't fall prey to scammers' tricks — follow the rules below to identify scams and avoid victimization.

Don't Be Fooled by E-mail Scams

  • Utilize your e-mail provider's spam filter. The filter will scan message content and flag suspicious or unsolicited e-mails for you to review. Avoid clicking on links or opening attachments unless you trust the sender. Install antivirus software on your computer and keep it updated.
  • Watch for unsolicited e-mails that sell a steeply discounted service or promise a prize like lottery winnings or free travel. Many scammers will grab readers' attention with attractive offers and direct them to a website that requests personal information in exchange for fake goods or services.
  • Never use a link sent by e-mail to access or verify your bank or credit information. Many scammers send bank customers phishing e-mails that mimic those of banks or credit authorities, asking customers to reply or follow a link and enter account information and passwords. Always access your bank's official website on your own. If a credit authority threatens to delete your account unless you confirm your identity, call the customer service hotline.
  • Don't respond to e-mail requests for charitable donations; these are often phishing attempts as well. Scammers take advantage of good intentions after heavily-publicized natural disasters and tragedies with phony charities. Put your money to good use by donating to a well-established charity.
  • Remember that pyramid schemes are illegal and may involve you in fraud charges; never take pyramid scammers' bait to send money while you circulate a "get rich quick" invitation.

Banish Bad Pop-Up Ads

  • Always use the control+alt+delete combination to close pop-up ads; using the right-hand corner button could result in more pop-ups.
  • Don't click on pop-up alerts telling you your computer is infected. Scammers use antivirus messages to advertise free scans that infect your computer. Never buy software from a site linked in a pop-up.
  • Beware of pop-ups that claim to be from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or any government agency. While law enforcement does not communicate through pop-ups, scammers do; some pop-up messages even attempt to scare you by stating that you have been associated with criminal activity by federal agents and that the only way to get out of legal trouble is to pay an enormous fine.

Convenient Services, without the Scams

  • Don't respond to Craigslist messages that demand wiring of funds or money transfers. Scammers will claim they are out of the country, need a deposit, send fake checks, or ask you to purchase goods or rent housing sight-unseen. Only exchange funds with respondents in person; if the seller is mysteriously unavailable, the ad is likely a scam.
  • Monitor any job offers you receive after posting your resume online, especially offers from companies where you have not applied. Make sure only a limited amount of your contact information is available on your posted resume; the more avenues scammers have to reach you, the more chances they have to ensnare you in a scam. Remember that legitimate job offers never ask you to wire funds or provide bank or credit card information up front.
  • Notify IC3 (http://www.ic3.gov), a partnership between the FBI and the National White Collar Crime Center, or the Federal Trade Commission (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/) any time you are contacted by a scammer; proper reporting helps to keep crime off the Internet.

Although phony offers and real opportunities can be difficult to distinguish, remember these three absolutes to eliminate over 90% of scams:

  • Never wire money or send electronic transfers.
  • Never pay for goods or services you didn't request.
  • Never enter your personal information on a site you didn't navigate to directly.

About U.S. Security Associates

U.S. Security Associates (USA) is one of North America's largest security companies, with 160 locally-responsive offices providing premier national security services and global consulting and investigations to customers in a range of industries. Recognized for world class customer service, leading-edge technology, and an enterprise approach to risk management, USA offers optimized security solutions to meet specific customer needs. USA is committed to building quality security and risk management programs that are Safe. Secure. Friendly.® The Securing Knowledge series is part of the extensive and growing library of reference and training tools that contribute to USA's award-winning customer service and benchmark security programs. USA's investment in training and development resources is reflected not only by BEST Awards from the American Society for Training & Development, consistent ranking on the Training magazine Top 125, and technology-driven quality management system, but also by the company's leadership team, security officers, and service excellence on a daily basis.

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