10 Top Tips To Beat the Scammers — Part 2

In Part 2, we identify 5 more key weapons to beat the scammers in 2009: Internet Scambusters #318

Last week we listed five important steps you can take to beat the scammers if they try to take you on in 2009.

In this article, we add another five — making 10 in all — with a particular focus on identity theft, the biggest scam of all.

By taking these simple precautions, you can substantially reduce the risk that you’ll lose your money, your identity, or both, to the villains.

Time to get going…

A New Year’s Resolution: 10 Top Tips To Beat the Scammers — Part 2

We want 2009 to be a scam-free year for all our subscribers, so we’re offering some of the most valuable tips to beat the scammers, for you to add to your New Year’s resolutions.

Last week, we listed five simple things you can do to cut the risk of being scammed:

  1. Be skeptical — trust no one, even friends and family who may be innocent accomplices.
  2. Don’t click on links or attachments — always check them out first.
  3. Use your eyes — watch what goes on around you and always check the small print.
  4. Take your time — don’t be rushed into making decisions or signing documents.
  5. Know the rules — so you’ll know if someone offers a deal that’s actually illegal.

Read the full issue at A New Year Resolution: 10 Top Tips To Beat the Scammers — Part 1.

This time we complete our list with five more tips. Most of them specifically relate to identity theft. You can find out a lot more about this evil crime by checking out other Scambusters articles and by visiting our Identity Theft Information Center.

Now, on with our tips list…

Tip #6. Protect your identity

Again, it may sound obvious, but you’d be amazed at how many people are careless with information that can be used by criminals to pass themselves off as their victims.

For a start, that means taking special care of documents and other items you carry around with you — like credit and health insurance cards. Keep them out of sight and out of reach. Never leave them in your car, and leave those you don’t need, like your Social Security card, at home.

Equally, don’t be too generous with information about yourself on the Internet, especially on social networks liked Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter. Disclosing info like your address or phone number, your employer and your educational and career history, all provide valuable background for ID thieves.

Tip #7. Monitor yourself

In Tip #3 we mentioned the importance of checking the details of your bank and credit card statements to provide early warning of identity theft. Well, that’s just the start of the whole process of monitoring the activities of those who keep records about you.

You also should take advantage of your entitlement to get a free report on your credit rating once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies — again so you can spot anything unusual. Also check out your medical and employment records and keep a close eye on your tax records — all of these are used by scammers in building up stolen identities and, sometimes, even assuming the full identity of victims.

Sound like too much trouble? Don’t have the time? Then consider enrolling with a company that will monitor your credit activities and issue an immediate alert if someone tries to pass themselves off as you.

Tip #8. Stay up to date

Crooks want to break into your computer, usually to steal confidential information they can use for identity theft, and sometimes so they can take control of your PC and link it into their network of spamming and scamming machines.

To beat the scammers, it’s not enough to have Internet security installed. It must be completely up to date, since new viruses appear every day.

Make sure your security software (you do have it, don’t you?) is set to automatically update.

But sometimes even that isn’t enough. Hackers can worm their way into your computer using what are known as “exploits” — techniques that take advantage of security weaknesses in other programs like Internet browsers, email programs and even the commercial office and graphics programs we use.

To keep ahead of the rogues, software firms constantly update their applications. Make sure you either auto-update or regularly check — usually via the Help menu — for new versions.

Tip #9. Speak up

It sounds kind of obvious that when you’re unsure about what you’re doing you should seek advice and that when things go wrong you should ‘fess up and tell someone.

But many people are often too embarrassed to admit they need help — with using the Internet, for example — or to report a scam to law enforcement when they get conned.

That’s what the scammers count on — ignorance and silence. After all, the fewer people who know how to spot their tricks or report their crimes, the more likely they are to get away with it.

If you feel uneasy about an unfamiliar situation online, always seek advice — even if you just Google for help. And if, sadly, you get scammed, report the incident immediately; then the crook is not only more likely to get caught but he (or she) is also less likely to be able to use his (or her) ill-gotten gains.

By alerting law enforcement you may also be helping to prevent other people from getting caught by the same trick.

Tip #10. Read Scambusters — and spread the word!

It’s no coincidence that Scambusters is the #1 online source of information about Internet and associated frauds. We work hard to provide the best scam reports, and we’ve been around for far longer than most.

When the media want a scam expert for an interview or sound bite, they frequently call on us. We’ve been listed independently among the most useful and user-friendly sites. And our service is free (helped by earnings from sponsors, advertisers and other sites, which we encourage you to support).

In these hard-pressed economic times, it’s more important than ever to take action to beat the scammers. And you can be sure we’re looking out for you and will report on their latest tricks.

So, in addition to following our 10 tips, we ask you to do three things for 2009:

  • Continue to subscribe to Scambusters to keep up to date.
  • Look back regularly through our list of articles to keep yourself informed about all types of scams.
  • Tell your friends and relatives about Scambusters, so we can help them too.

Help yourselves, help each other — and let’s beat the scammers in 2009!

That’s a wrap for this issue. Wishing you a great week!