Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Unemployment, foreclosures fuel Internet scams

YONKERS, N.Y. (5/13/09)--The recession is feeding a wave of cybercrime estimated to cost consumers $8 billion as crooks capitalize on online job searches, desperate homeowners seeking to avoid foreclosure, the soaring popularity of social networking sites, and poorly protected computers ( June 2009).

One of five online consumers fell victim to Web crime in the past two years. Crooks snagged almost two million online shoppers' identities; other IDs were compromised via hacked computers, e-mail scams and financial transactions. And about seven million consumers dished out sensitive information to online phishing attacks.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation's Internet Crime Complaint Center's latest report also revealed that online crime hit a record high in 2008. As vulnerable consumers repeatedly fall victim, scam artists continue to find new, seemingly legitimate ways to take advantage.

Despite the grim news, protect yourself by taking precautions:

Thwart online thefts. The Internet is full of useful software. Try for firewall, antivirus, antispam and antispyware protection--many downloads are free, but some come at a cost.

Use proper security settings on social networking sites. Don't use birth dates, addresses, phone numbers and any other personal information that could make you vulnerable to identity theft.

Don't click on links within messages. If you do, you could be phished. Beware of scams on social networking sites; you are more likely to be caught off guard by phishing messages from your networked friends. Don't provide personal information or follow links in suspicious messages.

Shop cautiously online. Crooks can set up fake e-commerce sites in a few hours. However, even a legitimate site may not be secure because a criminal still can hack in to sensitive data. Always look for a closed padlock in your browser frame and "https" in the URL. Also, check the legitimacy of the business with the Better Business Bureau (

Back it up. Regularly back up important data to prevent a virus from wiping it out and leaving you in the lurch.

For more information, read "Crooks Use High-Tech Scams to Commit Fraud" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

courtesy of

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