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According to a recent TD Canada Trust Fraud Prevention poll, 84% of Canadians are worried about online scams, 77 per cent are concerned about malicious social media apps, and 72 per cent are suspicious of phishing scams.
While many online scams seem obvious, con artists all over the Internet are diversifying their tactics to become more sophisticated and more difficult to spot.
Here are three common online scams, and tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of cyber crime:
1. Phishing scams
This online scam is one where victims are tricked into providing personal information -- such as bank account numbers, passwords, and social insurance numbers -- to what they believe is a legitimate bank, online service provider, or financial institution.
The setup: You receive an email that asks you to click on a link to visit a website in order to verify your account information. The website will be designed to resemble the targeted company's official website.
How to keep safe: Most legitimate companies would never ask for sensitive personal information over the Internet or by email. Do not click on any of the links in the email. Remember that if it were an urgent matter, your bank or service provider would contact you by phone and not by email. For complete peace of mind, contact your bank or service provider by phone to inquire about the email you received.
2. Social media fraud
Many people fall for online scams on popular social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest every day. These scammers try to take advantage of users by offering fake gift certificates or products for free.
The setup: You see a post on a social networking site offering free products from well-known companies. To claim your prize, you will be asked to "like," "retweet," or "pin" information or a photo and then share the post with all of your contacts. You may then be prompted to follow a link to complete a survey, which will ask for your personal details, information you shouldn't be handing over to just anybody.
How to keep safe from social media fraud: Never click on suspicious social networking sites, even if they are from your friends! Be wary of filling out surveys, and be careful about the personal details that you share online. Remember that if the link is advertising an offer that seems too good to be true, it probably is.
3. Nigerian 419 letter
The 419 scam, named after the section of Nigerian law that deals with acquisition by fraud, is one of the oldest online scams around. Yet, many people are still falling for it.
The setup: You receive an email from someone who is asking for help to transfer funds out of a country, usually Nigeria. The victim is promised a large reward if they decide to help.
However, once the victim agrees to participate, they are asked to forward an initial sum of money to help pay for bank and transfer fees, often hundreds of dollars. When the victim has sent the money, the contact disappears.
How to keep safe: Never provide personal information like your bank account or social insurance numbers to strangers. Always be cautious if someone is asking you to deposit a cheque and promising to wire money back. And remember that if you do send money, you'll never get it back!
The Internet is an amazing resource that has revolutionized the way we communicate and share information with each other. But with such a powerful tool, there are bound to be those who try to abuse it. So learn how to protect yourself from online scams and be a cyber crime fighter by educating yourself and those around you.
Fight cyber crime
For information on how to report online scams and frauds, visit the RCMP website or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.