I didn’t hit the lottery so I’m not buying a double-wide and moving to Alabama. But I did receive an email from the head of a foreign tribe who needed to hide some money in the United States. He’s sending millions of dollars to my checking account next week and it was all so easy. I simply mailed him my bank’s routing number, account number, and $1,000 cash for him to arrange the transfer. How lucky am I?

Hearing the term “free money” makes a number of people lose their cookies and common sense. When they receive an illegitimate email offer of big bucks, they don’t question why they need to pay money to get money.

The internet is a great thing, but like some other great things, good can be partnered with bad. Logging onto the internet is tantamount to jumping into a pool of Portuguese piranha because there are countless online scammers eager to nibble away other people’s money. Thankfully, I didn’t send money to the foreign tribe, but lots of people feel like they’ve been roasted with an apple after they do.

There’s a way to help protect an account from being hijacked called the two-factor authentication. It isn’t perfect, but it does offer one extra layer of protection in addition to username and password. It may painful to use, but not as painful as losing money. Users still log in, but the website sends a digital code to the user’s cellphone that must be entered to make the login work.

The letter S at the end of an https:// website address stands for the word secure. But regardless if a web address indicates the letter S, there are no guarantees of safe browsing on the internet. Experts warn that financial or personal information should never be entered on any website unless it offers more than one layer of security. Even then, it’s the internet, so user beware. They also warn that this information should never be saved on an online shopping site or device.

It’s easier if users have online shopping pages save their credit card information so they don’t have to type it in for future purchases. But that also makes it easier for crooks to steal user’s credit card information once they’ve hacked into the shopping site.

Phishing, spoofing, and catfishing are relatively new terms that grew out of the internet. Our digital world is changing perhaps faster than technology, and not always in a good way. When looking at websites, make certain the address is spelled correctly. People go phishing and steal by setting up websites that look like well-known websites. Some pass along viruses, malware or commit identity fraud, and others take money without actually having a product. There are numerous antivirus programs that have phishing filters that are good at blocking phishing websites.

Spoofers try hard to obtain other people’s financial accounts, passwords and personal information. They change email addresses around in hopes that it looks like it’s coming from someone else. It’s similar to the scammer who telephones and pretends to be a sheriff’s deputy. The fake deputy tells the person who answers the phone that they missed a grand jury subpoena, but they can avoid incarceration if they pay money over the telephone. Scammers continue this hoax because our world is filled with law abiding citizens who are easily frightened into doing the wrong thing for the right reason.

Recently, I received an email that contained a friend’s complete name. It said, “My bad, I should have emailed this to you sooner.” But something didn’t look right, so I checked the complete email address and knew instantly that it wasn’t from my friend. His email address doesn’t end with shellyv@sasktel.net. Thankfully, I didn’t open the link.

Catfishers try to make people think they’re in a relationship. They might use fake photographs or create elaborate personalities to make themselves look more attractive. They have been known to lure victims into sending money for a bus ticket, a house, a wedding ring or just about anything imaginable.

The old adage “All’s fair in love and war,” doesn’t apply to the internet. Going to war with a catfisher, phisher, spoofer, or the head of a foreign tribe can be an uphill battle. And, the top view isn’t always worth the climb.

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Charlie Sewell lives in Cherokee County. His book “I’d Rather You Call Me Charlie: Reminiscences Filled With Twists of Devilment, Devotion and A Little Danger” is available on Amazon. Email him at retiredchiefsewell@gmail.com.

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