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Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 09 - 2012

Scam me not Awareness is the key to fighting online fraud. If you've heard about a scam, you're better able to recognize when a criminal is trying to relieve you of your hard earned cash. Organized crime gangs are using technology that didn't exist 15 years ago including social media, pop-up ads and text-message “smishing" scams. In fact, fraud and identity-theft complaints tracked by the US Federal Trade Commission topped 1.2 million last year, up 19 percent from 2010 and a whopping 800 percent since 2000. “Fraud operates like a business these days," said Jeff Blyskal, Sr. Editor, Consumer Reports. “It's as if thieves have their own Research and Development departments looking into the latest technologies and figuring out new ways to trick you. And the Internet makes it easier to reach and market their schemes to people than ever before. Even if they only fool a small percentage of people, that's still a lot of victims." Consumer Reports, the world's largest independent product-testing organization, has put out information on some of the latest high-tech scams and what you can do to avoid them. Tear out that malware: The scam starts out by advising, “We'll remove the virus we found for $100." And some scoundrels fly under the radar via telephone. A tech-support person, purportedly from a trusted company such as HP or Microsoft, calls to warn you that its security systems have remotely detected a virus on your computer and offers to remove it – for a fee of $100 or more. Of course, there is no virus, so you pay for unnecessary service. The crook may also take the opportunity to install mock antivirus software that later starts “finding" nonexistent malware. Worse, the criminal techie may also install software that scans your computer to steal your passwords and hijack your computer to generate ads and spread spam. Protect yourself by only using legitimate antivirus and antimalware software reviewed and recommended by well-known reputable organizations. Hang up the phone on any stranger who claims to have found trouble on your PC. Bid to win: You could win an iPad. Start bidding! Popular electronics are used to entice victims into a shakedown. A pop-up ad on the computer invites bids on an iPad, laptop PC or wide-screen TV, but you must include your cell-phone number to play. Submitting a bid sends a text message to your cell phone that if you respond starts a monthly subscription to a useless mobile service. Protect yourself by not revealing your cell phone number to strangers online and don't respond to SMS messages you don't understand. Facebook shakedown: OMG! Now you really can see who views your Facebook profile! Social-media networks are fertile ground for fakery. You might have received news-feed messages from Facebook friends raving about an app that claims to let you see who's checking out your profile. Such messages can lead to “bait pages." Bait pages are used for everything from driving up search rankings to collecting personal information leading to identity or password theft. Protect yourself and don't reveal personal information online. Ignore survey requests and product promos from friends unless you confirm they are genuine. And think before you “like."

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