A Greendale woman was surfing the Internet Nov. 9 when her computer froze.
The message that popped up was from the FBI, telling her she was looking at illegal movies and pornography, and needed to pay $300 to use her computer again.
The woman, who lives in the 4500 block of West Ramsey Avenue, purchased a $300 Pak card from Walgreens and followed on-screen directions to send the information.
But her computer remained frozen.
The woman then called the Greendale Police Department, and officers told her she'd been the victim of an online scam. The above information was taken from police records of the incident.
Scams like these are common and unfortunately, many fall victim to the schemes each year. With holiday shopping ramping up and “Cyber Monday” just around the corner, many more may fall victim to the same scam as the woman above.
Here are some tips from Identity Theft 911, so you can avoid becoming victim to an Online scam while shopping this holiday season:
- Shop on secure sites. They’ll have “https” in the address bar and a yellow padlock logo to the right of the Web browser address bar. Double-click on the lock to see a digital certificate of the website. Review these certificates on unfamiliar sites.
- Enter correct URLs. Hackers often buy misspelled domains to trick people into entering personal information.
- Never enter your Social Security number or passwords to email and bank accounts as part of the buying process with online retailers.
- Use different passwords for online retailers, personal email and banks accounts. If a hacker cracks one password, he won’t have access to others.
- Read site reviews before making any purchases. Pricegrabber.com compares prices and users’ comments on retail websites. Google Product Search, slickdeals.net and dealnews.com monitor retailers, site performance, possible issues and deals.
- Never save personal information on an online retail website. Retailers will offer convenience and better deals, but many customer databases are breached by identity thieves. It’s not worth the risk.
- Read website return and privacy policies before making purchases. If there’s any doubt about fairness, find another site.
- Be aware of phishing email scams that include website links advertising incredible deals. Don’t click on them. Type the link directly into your browser.
- Use credit cards, not debit cards. Try to use credit cards with low limits to minimize the damage if a thief takes over the account. Or, use a “one-time” credit card number from payment processors such as PayPal.
- Never link a bank account to an online pay service such as PayPal. Hackers could break into the PayPal account and drain money from the linked bank account.
- Never send payment information via regular email. It’s not secure. Make sure all personal information transactions are done on a secure site.
- Uncheck boxes advertising “additional offers.” These services are sometimes offered for a low initial fee that later increases to a high, recurring charge on your credit card. Also, they’ll issue your contact information to spammers.
- Secure mobile phones used for shopping. Back them up regularly and enable security features such as power on password and inactivity time lock. Learn how to clear browser caches and, if available, enable data encryption and antivirus applications.
- As always, install and update antivirus, anti-malware and firewall software on your computer. Update its operating system and Internet browser with the latest security patches.