Bickerton Law Group, LLLP
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Tips for avoiding online scams

The high-profile trial and sentencing of a local accounting executive is a reminder to Hawaiians that fraud can happen anywhere, at any time. According to Hawaii News Now, a former accounting executive is beginning a 20-year jail sentence for money laundering, theft and forgery.

The man was convicted of stealing $500,000 in July, after setting up several phony companies and individuals, along with fake emails and PayPal accounts. He used these fake identities to interact with and steal from his own firm.

There are many others who are putting their computer skills to work in committing fraud and stealing money and identities from others. The state of Hawaii offers a helpful e-booklet with a comprehensive list of common scams that occur on the internet, as well as by phone and traditional mail.

Computers without a firewall are a target for hackers who want to access personal information and accounts, along with passwords. Scammers also send emails that attempt to trick users into clicking on an image or link, which downloads spyware or a virus. The user may receive a pop-up message about a virus that urges them to call a phone number for technical help. On the other end of that phone is a scammer who wants a credit card number before helping. Additional scams include messages about high-yield and offshore investments and setting up an e-currency account.

Some best practices to follow while using the internet include:

  • Allowing automatic updates of the software and operating system to always maintain the most current versions
  • Keeping personal information such as Social Security numbers or home addresses off of social media sites
  • Ensuring online banking and shopping sites have data encryption; sites that use encryption have a URL that starts with "https"
  • Being skeptical about messages requesting confirmation of personal information via email

Other ways to protect personal information include using a different password for each online account and creating strong passwords with a combination of letters, symbols and numbers.

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