Hello and welcome to today’s edition of TECH 5. This is Ben Harrison.

This week we are focussing on computer fraud; how to recognize it and how to avoid it.

Yesterday I talked about online shopping a subject involving millions of customers and billions of dollars, virtually world-wide. My personal experience with online shopping has been excellent through the years. I have and will continue to use airline and hotel websites to plan travel and reserve accommodation. I have now purchased three automobiles, one from IBC Japan and two from E-Bay in the USA. I have purchased numerous books and electronic products from and I have even ordered grocery products and supplies to be delivered to my home in Toronto the morning I return from my four months in St. Vincent. I have also very successfully used Paypal, which is a free service offered by most merchants, to pay for my purchases.

AND, I should mention, my wife avoid long bank teller line ups and I do virtually all of our personal banking and bill payment in Canada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, online with never one incident of trouble.

What is the common denominator of all the merchants and financial service firms I have dealt with? They were well known to me and had a good reputation for quality, service and price.

If you are shopping for an item or service, a travel or vacation destination or looking for a company name using a search engine like Google, you will likely receive hundreds or even thousands of “hits”. Do not automatically click on the first result. Many fraudsters go to extreme lengths to have their own website appear ahead of a legitimate companies with popular search engines. Their website may be a mirrored version of a popular website, but with a slightly different URL or address. Purchases made on these sites could result in one or more of the following consequences:

  • You may never receive the item
  • The product may not be what you thought you ordered and is not returnable.
  • The products may have been damaged or are refurbished goods without a guarantee.
  • Your credit card details may be stolen
  • You may unknowingly download a computer virus to your computer.
  • Before clicking on a result in a search engine, inspect the URL of the website. Look for any misspellings or extra characters such as periods or commas as these are indicative of fraud.
  • If you place an order and are taken to a website payment page, again verify the URL and ensure it is secure by starting with “HTTPS,” not just “HTTP.”

Here are some additional tips to always remember:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) e-mail.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Be cautious of e-mail claiming to contain pictures in attached files; the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mail messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail to the link you are actually directed to and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
  • Log on directly to the official website for the business identified in the e-mail instead of “linking” to it from the unsolicited e-mail.
  • If the e-mail appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information. Confirm with a telephone call to the actual business that supposedly sent the e-mail to verify that it is genuine. Don’t use the telephone number contained in the e-mail, which is likely to be fraudulent as well.
  • Keep in mind that online businesses, including banks and merchants, typically will not ask for personal information, such as usernames and passwords, via e-mail.
  • In general, avoid following links sent in e-mails, especially when the sender is someone you do not know or appears to be from a business advising that your account information needs updated.
  • If you are requested to act quickly or there is an emergency that requires your attention, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.

In summary: Don’t be afraid to use the internet for shopping and financial services. Be cautious. Deal with established, reputable firms and never forget the phrase: “If something appears too good to be true, it probably is”.

Tune in tomorrow for the next edition of Tech 5. This is Ben Harrison from EEZEE Radio 91.1 AND 102.7 on your FM DIAL in St. Vincent and the Grenadines