The World Wide Web has created an enormous opportunity to benefit our social, political, and economic environment in many ways that advance our lives, but the internet can make you vulnerable to attacks such as advertising scams and personal safety issues. 

Information and Advice from HCCP2:

Don’t be vulnerable to cyber attacks. ~ Constable Chris Diaz

The World Wide Web has created an enormous opportunity to benefit our social, political, and economic environment in many ways that advance our lives, but the internet may also be a very dangerous technological tool. The business of Internet advertising is booming and it has surpassed the newspaper as the means by which buyers and sellers interact. In North America alone, over 310 million people use the internet.  This month’s discussion will focus on several commonly known websites that represent some of the concerns, particularly advertising scams and personal safety issues.

What is the Internet? 

The internet is a computer network which links smaller computer networks worldwide and includes commercial, educational, governmental and other networks.  Collectively, this means that the world is now more connected than ever as more users access the World Wide Web, this medium is reliable, and many individuals and businesses are manipulating the Internet for their benefit, including illicit enterprise and victimization of subscribers through identity theft, cyber espionage, hacking, phishing, destruction of data files and more.   Therefore, without adequate controls, the Internet may be a dangerous tool.

Websites 

Although it would be unrealistic to discuss a majority of the websites that tend to serve as covers for crimes, such as sex and child trafficking, identity theft, espionage, or several types of fraud, there are a few popular sites that merit a brief discussion. Because of U.S.  laws, sites that tend to provide an opportunity to be exploited for illegal purposes, remain in operation. Several identified sites include: Craigslist, Backpage, and others, such as PlentyofFish; LoveAwake; Zoosk, okcupid; mingle2; badoo; eVow; SexyAds; fllirtfair; and  XHOOKUPS, to name a few.  When using any of these sites, individuals should exercise caution in sending payments to persons who the buyer has not met, the wiring of funds to a remote location, acceptance of cashier’s checks, money orders, or certified checks, the release of financial information, and requests for background or credit checks. Finally, consumers are warned that their involvement is at their own risk.

Craig’s list is the nation’s largest classified listing service, where buyers and sellers meet at any point in time, and engage in a buyer-seller transaction. Everything from household items, vehicles, clothing and cellular phones to adult services is made available.

Backpage also provides electronic classified listings for sale of goods, such as vehicles, sporting equipment, clothes, jewelry, – nearly anything that would be of interest to buyers looking for a good deal. At the same time, backpage has been at the center of controversy for many years, but recently, it has come under the spotlight as the main site where sex crimes are planned but executed elsewhere. If a citizen is accessing this site, my advice is for them to “get out as soon as possible.”

Other commonly used websites include eBay, Halfprice books, and Amazon. The websites that enable social networking, for business and personal or professional reasons include Facebook and LinkedIn. Facebook is considered a social media upon which subscribers may post images, videos, and text to be visible to the public and to their friends. LinkedIn is considered a means for networking and employment, but ads are also placed within the webpages that exist. Through LinkedIn, employers and recruiters may seek dialogue with members.

Precautions to Take

_ Protect your personal financial information, including social security numbers, passwords, usernames, and account information

_ Inspect each credit and bank account statement to ensure the purchases are authorized

_ Keep your account information, particularly credit cards, in a secure place

_ Immediately report suspicious account activity, along with lost or stolen cards

_ For credit bureau fraud alerts, contact any of the major credit bureaus:

www.experian.com

www.equifax.com

www.transunion.com

What to do if you suspect fraud or theft? 

Each website discussed above that serves as a broker for advertisements does provide a means for consumers to make internet fraud complaints or complaints to the Federal Trade Commission or to any of the locations listed below:

_ USA.gov, Internet Fraud Information: www.usa.gov

_ U.S. Department of Justice, Reporting Internet Crime: www.justice.gov

_ Internet Crime Schemes: www.ic3.gov

_ Internet Safety Sources: www.ncpc.org

_ I-SAFE America: www.isafe.org

_ National Consumers League: http://www.fraud.org