Blog topic: Be Smart Online

It’s criminal

The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced the extradition of six Nigerian nationals from South Africa to Mississippi to face a nine-count federal indictment for various Internet frauds. These six people join 15 others who were previously charged with, among other things, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, identity theft, and money laundering.

What were the scams? According to the indictment, the defendants found and reached out to their potential victims through online dating websites and work-at-home opportunities.

Faking it — scammers’ tricks to steal your heart and money

Not everyone using online dating sites is looking for love. Scammers create fake online profiles using photos of other people — even stolen pictures of real military personnel. They profess their love quickly. And they tug at your heartstrings with made-up stories about how they need money — for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel. Why all of the tricks? They’re looking to steal your money.

Image of cupid and heart

Did you book that night at the hotel’s site?

Whether you travel a lot or just a little, you’ve probably gone online to book a hotel stay. Sometimes you might find a travel comparison site gets you the best deal. Other times, you might book directly at a hotel’s website — maybe to earn points for the company’s reward program, or because you have some special requests for your stay.

For those times you’re looking to book directly with a hotel, make sure that’s what you’re doing. The FTC has heard from people who searched online and thought they were booking on a hotel website, only to find they’d unknowingly been doing business with someone else.

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

Public Wi-Fi Networks

Whether in a hotel or airport across the world, or in the coffee shop just down the street, chances are you’ve used free Wi-Fi hotspots. While convenient, they’re often unsecure. So how can you reduce your risk? Encryption — having your information scrambled into code — is key to staying secure online.

Image of Public Wi-Fi Video

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

Is your phone a prized possession?

Let’s be honest: I spend more time playing games on my smart phone than talking on it. Our phones have become our family photo albums, personal gaming systems, calendars, encyclopedias, navigators, and instant messengers. If you can think of an activity, there’s probably an app for it.

Unfortunately, some apps might not be what they claim, and downloading the wrong app could put your phone on the fritz. According to the FTC, that’s what happened to thousands of people who downloaded the Prized app before it was removed from the app store.

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

Before paying with bitcoins…

If you shop online — and who doesn’t? — you might notice that some websites let you pay with bitcoins. Virtual or crypto currencies like Bitcoin can be a fast way to pay online, or in person with a mobile app.

But using virtual currencies comes with risk. Their value goes up and down — sometimes sharply — depending on demand. In addition, payments made with virtual currencies aren’t reversible and don’t have the same legal protections as some traditional payment methods. Once you hit send, you can’t get your money back unless the seller agrees. That’s why it’s important to know who you’re buying from and what policies they have regarding refunds, returns, and disputes.

Shopping Online with Virtual Currencies

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

Email from OPM – is it the real deal?

You just got an email saying your information was exposed in the OPM data breach. Wondering whether the email is the real deal or not? Here are a few things to look for.

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

OPM data breach – what should you do?

A data breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – and you’re a current or former federal employee whose personal information may have been exposed. What should you do? Take a deep breath. Here are the steps to take.
Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

Paying your friends through an app? Read this.

Imagine you’re at a restaurant with your friend. She pays the check, and says you can pay her back. Do you:
a) write an IOU on a napkin?
b) pull out a wad of cash and give her exact change?
c) take out your phone and pay her through a mobile payment app?

If you answered c), this post is for you.

Like apps that let you pay at stores with your phone, “peer-to-peer” payment services can be a convenient way to pay friends. But before you use one — or use one again — check the app’s settings for available security features.

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online

Can debt collectors message you for money?

It could start with an unexpected text message or email like this:


Hold on. The message is a lie. You don’t have payment arrangements with anyone. So who’s messaging you for money?

Blog Topic: Be Smart Online