Internet scams seem ubiquitous. You might see scams in your email, on web sites, on your phone – and they are getting more clever and harder to spot. In future columns, I will cover specific kinds of scams and how to spot them but, today, I want to give you some general rules to help you spot and avoid most scams.

• Never give your full social security number to anyone.

• Never give out any passwords to anyone. No exceptions.

• Learn to check out links without clicking on them.

For phone calls, the rules are very simple:

• If you make a phone call to your bank or credit card company, make sure the phone number is valid (usually from their official website). If you have made the phone call in this way, you can trust the person at the other end with your personal information.

• If you receive a phone call claiming to be from your bank or credit card company, they must already know your name and your account information. If they ask you to provide any information, it is a scam – hang up.

• If you receive a phone call claiming to be from Apple or Microsoft support regarding your computer, unless it is returning your previous call to support, it is a scam – hang up.

For email and websites. Many of these general rules apply equally to email and websites.

• In e-mail, if you receive a notice purporting to be from your bank or credit card company, don’t click on any link (even if you are “sure” it’s OK). Instead, go to the bank’s web site (the URL will be simple, like “https://yourbank.com”) and log in. If the email was legitimate, you will be able to see any important messages on the bank’s website.

• As a rule, the more alarming the email message is, the more likely it is to be a scam.

• Websites cannot see anything on your computer except for the cookies you allow them to see. Websites cannot detect viruses or any malware on your computer. If a web page pops up a message that they have detected viruses, it is a lie. Do not click any buttons or links.

• Be very suspicious of all links on web pages and email. Learn how to check a link without actually clicking on it:

In an email or website, place your cursor over the button or link but do not click it. As you hover over the link, at the bottom of the browser window or email window you will see the URL where that button or link will take you. An honest link will take you where it says it will. That is:

[Apple Support] would show a URL similar to “https://support.apple.com

Scam links will not match:

A hover over [Bank login] might show “http://fredsbaitshop.cs” – don’t click!

If the link shows just numbers, don’t trust it:

[Bank login] shows up as “http://72.3.133.152” – don’t trust it!

Sometimes, when you hover over a link, it shows something like “java:void”. This is not a link to another web page; clicking that will actually execute a program. Don’t click.

Following these general rules should help you spot and avoid a lot of internet scams.

The most important rule is to be very suspicious of all emails, links, alerts and websites. I once received an email from a family member that contained a malicious link. Their account had been hacked. Be careful, be suspicious, be safe.

For more information go to: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0060-10-things-you-can-do-avoid-fraud

Editors Note: this is the first of a monthly Tech Tips column by IT professional Kimball Hawkins. Mr. Hawkins lives in Wallowa.

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