The internet has made the world a much smaller place. Today, being connected to the internet means you have access to shop at your favorite store from the comfort of your easy chair. It also gives you the opportunity to stay connected with friends/family all over the world 24/7.
Unfortunately, that connectivity to the web comes at a price. Through the many facets of your digital profile you are a giant target for those who would seek to profit from you through acquiring your personal identifying information, financial assets, or both.
While not intended to be exhaustive, the following list provides some things you can do to protect yourself from becoming an unsuspecting victim of these shysters of the technological age.
- Never give your personal identifying or asset verification information via a phone, online, text or email request without confirming the communication is from/with a business or organization who, first, has reason to request same and second, has actually requested that information.
- Share communications seeking personal identifying or asset information with a trusted friend or relative before responding.
- Do not allow the claimed need for your immediate response, or the pressing nature of the request itself, to stop you from taking steps to insure the legitimacy of the request.
- Frequently check your credit card and any financial accounts for suspicious activity.
- In the online world, remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Know your rights and responsibilities in an online world and then avoid online transactions which ask you to forfeit your rights to protection or violate an online vendor’s community rules.
- Do not provide your personal identifying information to vendors who refuse to provide you immediate verifiable confirmation of the terms of the transaction.
- Take the time to report suspicious vendor activities to reputable website administrators.
- Don’t click that link or reply to that communication unless you know it is from a trusted source.
- Take time to visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/. That website provides a lot of helpful information including: current scams and steps you can take if you have received a scam related communication, or worse, become the victim of a scammer.
In the event you realize you are the victim of a crime utilizing a technological means, or that someone has attempted to do so, do not hesitate to contact your local police agency to make a report of the incident.
While there are no guaranteed ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of crime in this digital age, taking common sense steps such as those outlined above can help frustrate the efforts of these digital pickpockets.
Jason S. Shoemaker
Chief Assistant State’s Attorney
Economic Crimes Unit
State’s Attorney’s Office for
Frederick County, Maryland