Everyone has undoubtedly received some sort of scam email at somepoint and time in their lives. But scamming people online is probably one of the easiest, safest, and cheapest ways to scam or steal information from someone. Identity thieves average jail time today is about 3 to 6 months (usually as time already served and then some probation) compared to 25 or 30 years ago it was 25 to 30 years in jail.
Here are some of my tips to avoid being scammed or getting identity theft:
1) Never give out your Social Security number for anything unless its an official something.
Most people think they HAVE to give their SSN on job applications and so forth. Unless the company is reputable or its a government agency of some sort, why risk that? Don't provide them with that information until they offer you the job. Saves you the risk. Same thing when your exploring options financially. Once you make up your mind or you have been given a conditional offer, that's about the only reason some MUST have your SSN. Even then, it is your right to NOT provide financial institutions that number. Your SSN is ONLY required for Tax purposes by your employer.
2) If you get a call, email, or snail mail requesting personal information for any reason do NOT provide it. Either contact the "Source" of the correspondence yourself directly and inquire if they in fact sent you such a request.
3) Never open attachments in emails from anyone you do not know, and if it seems odd your getting one from someone you do know, write them back and ask if they did in fact send it. Viruses can attach themselves to your address book and get mailed out. Most are nothing but a pain in the rear, but some can contain keyloggers which record everything you type.
4) Do NOT click links in emails. It is standard procedure for legit correspondences to inform you to go to their website and log into your account (if you have one) or do what needs to be done by you going their, and not them providing you a link. If you click on a link on an email and you see the address starts off with http:// and a bunch of numbers and period. CLOSE IT DOWN! That's a telltale sign that's a scam email.
5) Your Passwords!
Do NOT have them all the same. Keep yourself a little notebook with all your passwords so you can keep track of them all, but do not make them all the same or all that easy. If you have 15 different accounts with the same password, a thief has a 15 times greater chance to get access to your account, and then has access to all of them. For Example, on PA, there are 4 different admin and server configuration panels, and each one has a different password. I have a common password I use for certain "leasure" sites or what not, but all my financial stuff and everything that matters or is sensitive has its own unique password.
Change them on a regular bases. Experts recommend changing it every 6 weeks to 3 months. Most people NEVER change their passwords. I am guilty of this too. I tend to wait until something fishy is going on before I change my password. We are just creatures of habit.
6) The reality of this world is that if you are entitled to money, you must earn that money, via a job. Money is almost never just GIVEN away. If you get communications about free money, just walk away. The rest of your life is not worth the hassle of a few hundred dollars, and if you were offered MILLIONS of dollars....please....be realistic, that would be on the news. Just play the state run lottery....its way more legit.
7) Lastly...use common sense and some intelligence. You are only a victim as much as you let yourself be.