We’ve all heard of the Nigerian Prince who has fallen out of favor with his royal family and needs your help getting to the United States where his assets have been frozen. Once he reaches the United States (with the help of your valuable contribution), he will gratefully pay you ten times the cash loan you gave to him and you will be wealthy beyond your dreams.
Many people think this is an e-mail scam that originates with the advent of the internet. But the fact is: a variation of the ‘Nigerian Prince’ scam goes all the way back to the days of late 19th century immigration to the United States, when scams such as selling shares of the Brooklyn Bridge were popular. Folks literally fresh off the boat were offered an opportunity to help an important person from their native homeland get out of some financial trouble and emigrate to the U.S. Far too many people fell for it and were destitute almost the moment they reached American shores.
These days, online scams are increasingly sophisticated and designed to fool you in much subtler ways than a simple yet dubious story of a down-on-his-luck African prince. Most of them are designed to frighten you; to make you think that you could be in trouble if you do not act now. Others are designed to look like a legitimate company, but are actually simple scam sites designed to get your information and even steal your identity.
Here Are Some Ways You Can Avoid Online Scams
- Don’t click the link. If you do not know and trust who the e-mail is from, don’t click a link embedded within that e-mail.
- Don’t give your information. If you get an e-mail saying you need to log in with your password or PIN (personal identification number) information, don’t do it. Every website you belong to already knows your password. Your bank already knows your PIN. They don’t need to ask you for it.
- If you’re shopping at a small online retailer and about to check out, verify the checkout process is secure. On the checkout page, check your browser and make sure there is a small padlock icon in the browser address space. If there isn’t, then chances are this is an unsecured website and any information you give could be compromised. Also, make sure your browser is up to date. Al; the major web browsers have security features that will alert you to an unsecure web page.
- Use your plastic. When shopping online, use your credit card when you can (and pay the balance off each month, this also helps you build good credit). The major credit card companies all have security protection and stay up to date on the latest scams. They can offer fraud protection so that you won’t be liable for a fraudulent charge.
- Strengthen your password. We know how hard it is to keep track of every single website we have a password for, so we tend to use the same password for each one. Do yourself a huge favor and never make it something simple like your name and your birthday. It’s far too easy for information thieves to guess. If you’re stuck on how to make a secure password, try these simple variations: color + animal + number. Pinkfox55 is a pretty strong password, and it is easy to remember (please don’t use Pinkfox55, we just made that one public) Here’s another variation: color + your dream car + year of that car (do NOT use your own car info for this, we can’t stress this enough), which means you get a pretty strong password like “bluechevy65” (again, don’t use that specific one).
Don’t fall victim to the many online scams that are out there. Use these tips to help you keep your own money.