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Have You Been Scammed?

2011 was a year for breaches, Internet scams, stolen identity, hacks, and credit card fraud. Calling this a challenging year for the network security industry would be a complete and utter understatement. Unless you are living under a rock, you have likely heard about the Sony breach, RSA breach, Citigroup breach, the “anonymous” hacker group, and the “LulzSec” hacker group, just to name a few. While these have flooded the newspaper headlines, they may not have affected you directly, but it is likely that you have experienced some sort of internet scam this year.

Take for instance the post on your friend’s Facebook wall saying, “WOW! Can’t believe the size of this three legged, seven eyed, purple wildebeest!!” in some cases our curiosity may get the best of us and next thing we know we click the link, we have lost Internet connection and have also posted the same thing on hundreds of other people’s walls spreading the virus. Though it may not have happened to you, it is something we all know about. How do you stay protected in this ever evolving online world? Below is a list of five scams you may have encountered during 2011 and how to be smart when facing the unknown:

1.)    Smartphone Application Scam – This scam was disguised as a smartphone application or game. When downloaded the malware would invade your phone, storing passwords, financial statements, and confidential information.

2.)    Facebook Post Virus – If you have a Facebook account, it is likely that you or someone you know was affected by this virus. A link that looks safe may actually take you to an insecure site or a virus could invade your computer. It is important to always be skeptical with links.

3.)    Get Rich From Gold! – With our turbulent economy, many people are searching for different ways to make money. One advertisement you may have seen is “Cash for Gold.” While many real companies are paying excessively for gold, it has also become a great opportunity for scam artists to steal personal information. In order to avoid this, make sure you are dealing with a credible company by reading online reviews.

4.)    Political Scams – Political scams are usually sent in the form of an email, asking for support from your preferred party. It is not hard to create an email template that looks reputable. The best way to avoid this is to go through a specific party or person’s webpage.

5.)    Conspiracy Theory Scams – Outrageous headlines are meant to grab your attention, “Jackie Killed JFK?,” “2012 The End of the World?,” “Alexander McQueen Shoes- Find Those Must Haves.” Depending upon your interests, some of these headlines may be eye catching. A good rule of thumb to go by is, if it seems absurd, chances are that it is absurd. In order to avoid this, check with a reliable source about the provided information before clicking anything.

If these all seem completely obvious to you…bravo, you are a smart Internet user. If you are thinking, “well I could see myself clicking something like that,” don’t fret, most people would do the same thing. Keep these in mind during the New Year and always be cautious while clicking!

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