Avoid being an internet target, follow some simple rules

In Patricia Highsmith’s 1955 novel “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, a con man who convinces the elites that he is a Princeton graduate continues to work his way into high society and spends lavishly in high-end stores by the through counterfeits and other unscrupulous methods.

If Tom Ripley had been alive today, he probably would have hacked his way to riches and created his fake success story on social media sites.

Increasingly, criminals are tracking money circulating online. Phishing, fake software and shopping sites, and tech support scams provide access to personal files and credit cards. The federal government and South Florida law enforcement say billions of dollars are now stolen from victims in the United States and abroad every year – a number that is only growing.

The best way to avoid getting scammed, say law enforcement experts and internet sleuths, is to heed a late 20th century proverb that still applies today: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“You have an anonymity factor, so they take more risks,” said South Florida Cybercrimes Commander George Perera, a major with the Miami-Dade Police Department. “Much of the internet is unregulated. Now you have crypto and it’s unregulated as well. It’s like a Category 6 scenario.”

Here are some suggestions for USA.gov and the Federal Trade Commission on how to surf the Internet safely:

Avoid using the same passwords on multiple accounts and make sure those passwords are unpredictable.

Do not give personal information to unencrypted websites. Encrypted sites start with https.

Keep your computer software up to date and talk to your children about possible pitfalls.

To avoid cryptocurrency scams:

Never pay in advance and keep in mind that cryptocurrency payments, unlike credit and debit cards, do not come with legal protections.

Always research the seller, keeping an eye out for civil lawsuits.

Never mix online dating and investment advice.

And if someone calls you out of the blue with promises of huge returns, but only if you buy cryptocurrency and transfer it to their online account, steer clear.

Finally, if you believe you have been scammed, please do not hesitate to contact the South Florida Cybercrime Task Force at Miami Dade Police, or use the non-emergency number 305-4-POLICE (305-476-5423) and ask for the Cybercrime Unit. Or contact the FTC Where USA.gov.

Chuck Rabin, writing for the Miami Herald for the past three decades, covers cops and crime. Prior to that, he covered the halls of Miami-Dade Government and the City of Miami. He covered hurricanes, the 2000 presidential election and the mass shooting of Marjory Stoneman Douglas. On a random note: Long before those assignments, Chuck was pepper sprayed covering up the unrest in Miami the morning Elián Gonzalez was taken away by federal authorities.

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