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Fraud Alert: How Not to Take the Bait

A lot of businesses today rely on online services. It makes transactions for clients more convenient and faster than usual. However, as technology advances so do fraud schemes.

These are illegal tactics that aim to obtain money by fooling people to divulge information such as their passwords or account numbers by pretending to be legit financial institutions.

Belief Debunked

Most people who have been victimized by online scams blame the financial institutions they are affiliated with. They think that the company’s system is not secure and is susceptible to hacking, which was the reason their accounts were compromised or stolen from. Here is the truth: this idea is very wrong.

Any financial institution’s system is secure enough and has multiple levels of controls that hacking the system is almost impossible. So, what fraudsters do is they copy the website, or they try and trick people into divulging personal information linked to their accounts in different payment systems via email.

These emails that aim to solicit information from victims are called pharming and phishing emails.

Your online banking system is a secured network and so are other payment methods online. Then, whose fault is it when fraud happens to people?

How Online Fraud Works

Pharming and phishing fraudsters do “email blasting.”

These emails look legit because they are the copycats of a certain bank’s or a payment system’s website and template. This means that they have copied the logo, the color, and even the name of legitimate financial companies!

These emails are sent to as many random email addresses as possible. This means that anybody would receive them. And one of the recipients could be an actual client. So, if you are indeed a client and you received a fraud email, it does not mean that your account information was stolen. Your email address was just chosen randomly.

These emails will ask you to update your account online by accessing a certain link. Never open that link! It will lead to another page that, again, would look legitimate but is an absolute fake! Banks never ask their clients to update their accounts online. Once you divulge information, then your data has already been compromised.

Remember, the look of a website can be copied. You may think of it as a drawing that was redrawn by another artist, but a fraudster can never copy the website’s original URL or website address.

Fraudsters Copy A Website’s Address But Not Quite

The trick to finding out if a website is real is to check the address. Look at the “www” part. If it does not contain the name of the bank or the online payment system, then it is probably fake.

Or if it does, look at the address closely. Is it misspelled? Are there substitutes in the address? Or maybe there are extensions?

Take “crowdh.com” as an example. We are not a financial/payment company, but just for reference, our original and legit URL is “crowdh.com.” So, if ever you received a message saying it is from CrowdH News, but the URL is something different like “cr0wdh.com,” “crowdhnews.com,” or “whatsoever.com,” then it is not from us!

How to Protect Yourself

If fraudsters permeate the Internet via copying, how can one protect themselves?

Simply, be cautious of giving away personal information online! Be wary of online surveys, too. Unless you’re sure of the security of the website and that you know that the information being asked are needed to pursue a transaction, especially when you make online purchases. If unsure do not type in any information at all.

If you manually type your password into an online account instead of saving it, so it automatically logs you in, the better. This will ensure that nobody will gain access to your account, should you leave your computer or device unattended. Moreover, it is encouraged that you create different passwords for your different accounts. Also, these passwords should be strong enough as not to be guessed outright. A password that is a combination of alphabetical, numerical and some characters is always good.

Also, enroll your bank account to mobile banking and always check the record of your transactions. This will help you monitor that everything that gets debited from your account is authorized. Furthermore, always print a proof of your payment or purchase.

In short, to be safe online, always check the source of the messages you receive and if you can, verify from an actual representative before disclosing any details.

How About If You Transact Personally Via card?

This additional tip is not related to any online payment system, but if you do withdraw via ATM, make sure to check the site where the ATM is located.

An exposed machine is more likely to be tampered with tiny cameras or PIN recorders to steal information. So, when you do withdraw, choose a machine that is secured inside a building. This tells us that it would be difficult for an intruder to tamper the machine.

Also, before inserting your card, check the card slot and the keypad first if there is anything unusual. And if it ever happens that you withdrew at a site for the first time, change your password immediately. Also, if you use a debit or credit card to pay, be sure to keep your eye on your card as a representative processes your deal. This will make sure that information is not copied and no additional amount would be charged to you.

In sum, to be safe from fraud, be cautious of the websites, of the merchants you transact with, and the links you click. Do not believe everything you see online at once. Verify with an agent. Moreover, always monitor your accounts and expenses as this is a basic security level against any type of fraud.

Never depend fully on others regarding your finances. If you cannot take care of it, how could other people?

About Patricia Abrihan

Patricia has always been inspired by the witty yet innocent voice of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird that she believes that writing is able to revolutionize ideas of society. She is a former college instructor from the Philippines and is currently a freelance writer and blogger managing her portfolio. She is open to collaboration and also loves reading and watching movies.

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