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    6 ways to protect yourself from getting scammed online, by phone, or IRL

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    A friend of mine recently fell victim to a scam. I had a problem with my Google account, so I called what I thought was a Google number, but quickly realized that the person on the other end was trying to scam me instead of helping me. Thankfully, he hung up before the scammer could convince me to share my credit card information to pay for a service they didn't provide. If he had given them those numbers, they probably would have depleted his account.

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    Things like this can happen to anyone at any time. Scammers continue to get more sophisticated in their methods. It is an epidemic and the only cure is awareness.

    After that incident, I started thinking about ways to be more vigilant. I hope my tips will help you avoid falling prey to scammers.

    1. Be suspicious of emails and messages

    Originally, I was going to title this tip “Doubt,” but I decided to be a little more specific. I usually suspect anything that could be a scam, but I have to focus my suspicions on emails and messages. I have a simple rule. If you don't know the sender or can't verify who they are, simply delete and block them. Although it sounds a little harsh, this is a surefire way to avoid email and text-based scams. Also, I don't allow my email client to display images automatically. This eliminates the possibility that the image could tempt me into doing something I shouldn't.

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    As far as text messages go, I'd say 75% of them are deleted without being read. Keep in mind that most scam messages rely on your replies to engage with you and gain your trust. This is where the real danger occurs.

    2. Check before clicking links

    I've shared this tip so many times over the years that you can memorize it. Simply put, if you receive an email that claims to be from a specific organization and contains a link, make sure the link is from that organization's domain.

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    For example, I received an email that appeared to be from Facebook and said I needed to reset my password. However, when I hovered over the link in my email client, the link appeared to be from a domain other than Facebook. If I had clicked on that link, it might have taken me to a website that resembled Facebook, but it didn't. This was likely a scam to collect my Facebook login information and use it against me.

    Always ensure that a link is legitimate before clicking on it. In some cases, you may need to do a quick Google search to find out if email.facebook.com is actually owned by Facebook. It only takes a few seconds to verify your information and you can protect yourself from fraud.

    3. If it sounds too good to be true…

    Remember that old email from a “Nigerian prince” who promised untold riches if you responded with your bank details? If someone makes you an offer that seems too good to be true, it's… Probably so. Scammers take advantage of our vulnerabilities, especially when it comes to financial matters. You might be on Facebook and say you're struggling financially. Next thing you know, a stranger is texting you and offering to help you. You interact with them and once they gain your trust, give them your bank account information and assume they will deposit funds into your account. Unfortunately, exactly the opposite happens.

    This also applies to people trying to help you with technology issues. If you have any problems, your first point of contact should be the company that manufactured the product. If that doesn't help, contact a known and trusted service provider. If that doesn't work, find a tech-savvy friend. Don't accept help from random people or the first people who contact you.

    4. Know how your organization will contact you

    The IRS will only contact you via USPS. They won't email you or call you. Similarly, all of her government websites end in .gov. When someone contacts you from a .com, .net, or .org email address, they claim to be from the U.S. government, which is not the case.

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    Many companies now employ chatbots as their first point of contact. If you have a problem with a product or service, visit the company's website and hop into his support chat. The bot answers a series of questions and connects you with a support representative if needed. This is always a safe method (as long as you are sure you are visiting the company's website in question). As my friend noticed, Google doesn't provide a phone number to call for help with its products. If they did, they would be inundated with calls 24/7. Companies like Google are doing it too. do not have I call you.

    Always remember how each company or organization communicates with you.

    5. Forward unknown calls to voicemail

    I can't even remember the last time I answered a call from an unknown number. Many years have passed. My rule of not responding to messages from people I don't know also applies to phone calls. We can say with almost 100% certainty that the majority of these unknown numbers are spam or robocalls. Some of those calls may even be the wrong number. A further portion of those calls may be malicious. It was that last type of phone call that changed my attitude towards answering the phone. If your name or business doesn't appear on display, it'll be automatically screened (thanks, Android).

    If the unknown caller is legitimate, you can always leave a message and we'll call you back.

    6. Be wary of people who ask for payment.

    Scammers do this. They will contact you, establish a trusting environment, and ask you to pay for a service or product (which they likely won't provide). You may be asked to pay using a specific method, such as Bitcoin, payment apps, or wire transfer. Another type of scam asks you to put money on a gift card and then asks for the number on the back of the gift card. Scammers may also send you a check, ask you to deposit the money, and then ask you to transfer the same amount. The problem was that the check was bad in the first place.

    Scammers are also using AI to impersonate your loved ones.Things to note are:

    Let's say the person you contact claims to be from Company X and asks for a fee for their services. Tell the person you'll get back to them, then contact Company X to ask if the person works for them and if the service is genuine. If a legitimate company says their service or person is legitimate, ask if you can pay through their website. Before entering your first credit card number, make sure that the company, the person requesting payment, and the payment method are all legitimate.

    Be diligent. Don't ignore these tips. If you don't, you'll probably regret it.

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