Stay Alert! Watch out for prize scams

Scammers look for any way they can to convince you to do what they want. One of their tactics is to tell you you've won a prize, hoping that your excitement will overshadow your common sense. Don't fall for it! Remember, if you have to pay anything in time or money, it's not a real prize. Here are just a few examples of what you might be asked to do to claim your "prize."

  •  Pay a fee
  • Wire money
  • Deposit a check sent to you
  • Attend a sales meeting
  • Speak with a "representative" on the phone

In order to win a contest, you must have entered. So if the source of the prize doesn't sound familiar to you, that's another red flag. There are rules that must be followed for real contests. For example, it's illegal to ask you to pay or buy something to enter or increase your odds of winning. Additionally, contest operators are required to tell you the odds of winning, the value of the prizes, the cost to enter (which should be free), and other terms and conditions.

Steer clear of "contest operators" that don't follow the rules and, if you're not sure, do an online search for the name of the operator plus the word "scam."

Watch out for this Amazon Email Scam

Given how many people order from Amazon, it's no surprise that scammers are using the company as a disguise to get into your inbox. These emails pose as messages from Amazon about orders you may have placed or canceled, but are actually bait to lure you into giving away personal information or allowing malware to be installed on your computer.

Here's how it works: You receive an email that looks like it's from Amazon. It mentions a phony order you've placed or canceled, and requests that you click on a link to verify payment or other types of information.

If you receive such a message, don't click!

These emails include numerous elements to make them look like they're really from Amazon including the Amazon logo, a shipping confirmation number, itemized invoice, and estimated delivery date. However, you can learn to spot these fakes since they will also often include:

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In light of Facebook's Cambridge Analytica Situation, what should I do to help protect my data?

Question: Facebook told me my data wasn't shared with Cambridge Analytica, which is a relief. But now I'm spooked. What's to keep other bad actors from collecting it, and how do I prevent that from happening?

Answer: As has always been the case with keeping your data private on Facebook, the key lies in the application's settings. If you choose to continue using Facebook, take the following precautions to keep your data safe.

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Stay Alert! Scams target previous victims

Here's another scam to watch out for, this one supposedly from a company you might know and trust. Say you had a tech issue a couple of months ago and used tech support services to resolve it. Now someone claiming to be from that service provider calls you to ask if you were satisfied with the service. If you say "No," the scammer asks for your banking or credit card information to issue a "refund." (If you say "Yes," they might claim they're issuing refunds because they're going out of business.) But, instead of putting money into your account, they take it out.

How do you avoid this type of scam?

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Stay Alert! Scammers send fake invoices to lure you in

Scammers send emails that look like they're trying to help you because they know you're more likely to click a link within them if you think you're protecting yourself. But, beware! In particular, watch for emails that look like they're coming from large tech companies you likely do business with. The emails say something like, "See the attached invoice for your recent purchase. If you did not authorize this purchase, click on the link below."

Just like other phony emails, this one is designed to get you to click on a link that takes you to a copycat website where you're asked to provide personal information that can be used for identity theft. Or it executes a program that gives scammers access to your computer, where they then install ransomware that prevents you from accessing your own files.

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