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Top 4 Most Common Scams and How To Avoid Them

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Chapel Hill chapter.

In the digital world, many of us are much more vulnerable than we need to be. Because of that, Intel and McAfee are adding another day to the calendar — Password Day — to encourage everyone to create more secure passwords and take care and protect their online accounts and identity. Check out the top four most common online scams and what steps you can take to avoid them.

1. Scareware—Selling fake antivirus software is one of the most insidious and successful scams of recent years. Cybercrooks play on users’ fear that their computer and information is at-risk by displaying misleading pop-ups. Crooks then prompt victims to purchase antivirus software to fix the problem. When the victim agrees to purchase, they hand their money and credit card information over to the very attackers behind the scam.

How to avoid it: If you get a pop-up virus warning, close the window immediately without clicking on any links. You should follow up with a full scan using legitimate antivirus software.

2. Phishing Scams—Phishing, or trying to trick users into giving up personal information, is one of the most common and persistent online threats. In fact, over 49,0006 phishing sites were detected at the end of 2009. Phishing attempts can come in a variety of ways; such as through spam emails, spam instant messages, fake friend requests and social networking posts. Usually cybercrooks pretend to be a legitimate business or organization and asked for your information.

How to avoid it: Before adding anyone to your social media networks that you are not sure about or clicking on links sent by strangers, check out their profile. If they follow thousands of people on Twitter, but nobody is following them, you shouldn’t accept.

3. Phony Websites—In recent years cybercrooks have become more and more adept at creating fake websites that look like the real deal. From phony banking sites, to auction sites and e-commerce pages, crooks are constantly laying online traps hoping you will be fooled into entering your credit card or personal information. Often these phony websites are used as part of a phishing attempt, where a cybercrook sends out a message with a link to the fraudulent website. And, given that a recent study indicated that the number of websites—many of them phony—infected with malicious software or ads have reached 1.2 million, users should beware.

How to avoid it: Never divulge information that is crucial to your online and offline identity. Don’t give passwords, pin numbers, account information, etc. online, no matter who is asking.

4. Online Dating Scams—Like the “I Love You” virus, online dating scams tug on victims’ heartstrings to get what they want. The typical online dating scam starts with the scammer posting an attractive picture on an online dating site. The scammer then sends out messages to other members of the site expressing interest. The next step is to strike up a one-on-one conversation with victims, usually via email or instant messages, where they tell a sob story. The crook creates a personal relationship in order to ask for cash, merchandise or other favors.

How to avoid it: We can take one big advice from MTV’s show Catfish: don’t be a fool. Online dating sites can be a great way to meet new people, but if someone you don’t know in person starts asking you for money, sign off. There are also sites online where you can trace a photo back, if you’re unsure the person is being honest.

Her Campus UNC wishes you and your friends a happy Password Day. Be proactive with your online security by changing or improving your password strength. Take the pledge to keep what’s yours, yours and be proud to say. “I #changedmypassword.”







Melissa Paniagua is a senior journalism major at The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, specializing in public relations. She is currently a fashion market intern at ELLE Magazine. On campus, Melissa acts as the Her Campus president as well as the vice president of the Carolina Association of Future Magazine Editors, UNC’s Ed2010 chapter. In the past, she has been an intern for Southern Weddings Magazine and a contributing writer for Her Campus. Melissa has an appreciation for all things innovative, artful and well designed and hopes to work in marketing for a women’s lifestyle magazine in the future!