Use caution online. Online transactions are convenient, easy, and in most cases safe. However, as with the telephone, you should be initiating the activity. If you want to buy something online, type in the address yourself. Do not click on a link in an unsolicited email message, even if it appears to be from a legitimate source.
Do not respond to unsolicited email messages. These messages are automated and sent out as part of a mass spam mailing. Until you respond, they do not have your individual email address. Think of the spam as the bait on a hook. If you bite, even to say no thanks, they are going to want to reel you in and may continue to write and harass you. This goes for all unsolicited emails from strangers.
Keep it under wraps. If you are doing online banking, many banks have added security precautions that help to keep your information private. Do not share your passwords with anyone. Avoid passwords that are obvious, such as your birth date or mother’s maiden name. Change your passwords and update your anti-virus software regularly. Close and log out of secure sites when you have completed your transaction.
Do not post personal information on social networking sites or blogs. Sites such as Facebook or Twitter can give you a false sense of security because you feel you are among friends. Remember that whatever information you make available on these sites is available not only to your friends, but potentially to their friends and acquaintances, as well as to hackers. Consider it as closer to a public bulletin board than your personal chat room and you will be less likely to want to share sensitive public information.
Be an educated consumer. If the price for an item or a property seems unbelievably low, there’s probably a reason why.
Don’t accept overpayments. If you receive payment for a sum greater than the amount you are asking for, do not accept it. If the buyer refuses to provide correct payment, find another buyer.
Be wary of communications coming from overseas. Notices of overseas lottery winnings, foreign buyers, sellers or love interests, sudden windfalls involving strangers in faraway lands – all of these scream “scam.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t be scammed by someone who lives next door, but a foreign contact combined with any one of the other signs of a scam will guarantee that the person is not to be trusted. Don’t even bother responding.
Use your common sense. Ask yourself if the transaction passes the smell test. Why would a complete stranger want to share $5 million with you? Why would they send a check for $15,000 when the rent is only $3000? If an online classified ad lists a seller’s location as Florida and then you are asked to send money overseas, walk away.