Four ways to avoid online fraud

Life online has risks. This doesn’t mean you should throw away your computer, but it is necessary to educate yourself and be aware of the potential harm.

While some of the terms used to describe fraudulent tactics online may be cute (“phishing” = fishing), the consequences can range from annoying to devastating.Know that Northwest will never ask you for your PIN, account numbers or any other private identification or financial information via email or social media.

Some basic advice:

You are not required to click every link. Don’t click on links that you’re not familiar with. It’s always better to simply delete an unsolicited email message or ignore a suspicious-looking search result.

Spam can be dangerous. Fake messages that resemble a valid message from a well-known business or company may tell you that you need to verify account information. They may even send you what looks like your own info and ask you to confirm it. This is known as “phishing,” because the spammer is “fishing” for your personal data. Don’t be fooled – no reputable business will ask for this type of information via email.

Cast a wary eye on unrealistic offers. Ultra-fast weight loss, work-from-home scenarios, and disease-preventing supplements can seem too good to be true – and often are. If you chase quick fixes down an online rabbit hole, the consequences can be frustrating (spyware or adware installed on your machine, increased email spam) while the products themselves are often underwhelming – and sometimes dangerous. Shady online vendors have been known to subscribe people in programs, charge for products or demand compensation for services that were never (or inadvertently) ordered. Stay away from the miracle solutions.

Social media has spammers, too. If a Facebook friend or Twitter follower sends you a link or media attachment that seems out of character, simply delete or ignore the message. Hackers can sometimes access social media accounts and send viruses in links and media. Make sure your password is unique, utilizes capital letters and symbols and is known only by you.