The internet is a fantastic international marketplace. You can buy almost anything your heart desires, all from the comfort of your own home. Unfortunately, the internet is also a haven for “get rich quick” schemes, work from home scams, and fraud. Plenty of unscrupulous people are looking to steal your money or your identity online every day. As long as you keep you wits about you, you should be fine. Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Never give out your SSN, your credit card number, or your bank account information via email. You may give these out to safe institutions, such as your bank or Paypal. Remember that neither of this places will contact you out of the blue for this information, so report any suspicious emails immediately.
2. Look out for funny sounding names or incorrect grammar. For example, I currently have an email in my spam folder from a “Sunny Beaver”. You should know by now that there is no free money on the internet, and a Nigerian prince will never just shoot you a quick email to get your help.
3. Whenever possible, involve a third party. For example, if you are buying something off eBay, you should be very safe. eBay offers payment protection, so if you do not receive the item you have purchased, you can contact eBay for help. Never send cash, and never give the seller your banking information.
4. Beware of get rich quick schemes. Websites that ask you to pay a fee for a diet program or a way to “make free money on Google” probably won’t live up to their promises. You wouldn’t give money to a stranger making outlandish promises, so why even consider doing it online?
5. If you are looking to work from home, be careful. An employer should NEVER make you pay an application fee. Remember, you are doing a service for an employer, which means you exchange your time and work for their money. In some cases, there are exceptions. One of the few instances in which you might have to pay to work for a company online is in the event that a background check is required. That transaction generally happens via the website of the company conducting the background check.
6. Testimonials from “real people” are designed to lend an air of authority to a website that seems a little sketchy. Always remember that the authors of the website could have written a fake testimonial or a review on another website.
7. Websites giving away free gaming consoles or gift cards rarely deliver the goods.
8. Do your research. Visit the company website, review the seller’s feedback…always do you part to verify that the person you are about to do business with is legit.
9. Look for security verification throughout the website. Your browser should indicate when you have entered a secure area of the website. Additionally, look for logos that show that the area is secure, such as the logo for Verisign. Generally, these logos are time-stamped to show that they are up to date.
10. If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.