Don’t be a victim



YOU planned for this trip early. You have booked your travel tickets and reserved accommodations, to take advantage of promotional offers. You’re now at the check-in counter for your flight. The airline representative tells you that you are not booked for any flight. You’re in shock. You try to call the travel agent, but no answer. You check the travel agent’s social media account, but you find that it has been deactivated. Worry and anger takes over. The excitement of travel on the kids’ faces have turned to disappointment. As things clear, you realize that you have been scammed. Not only have you fallen victim to a scammer, the trip with the whole family has been ruined.

Now you wonder what could have gone wrong.

Information about places to go are easy to come by. As you browsed for information, a pop-up window appeared. The pop-up window offered information on how to get to a particular destination. It also offered tour packages. So, you clicked on it and started to engage whoever is behind it. You switched to email to make the arrangements. You received official-looking e-tickets for your flight and e-vouchers for the resort. Finally, you are requested to make payment through a bank account and you obliged. Nice. Everything went on smoothly. Everything confirmed.

As netizens take to social media sites hunting for good travel deals, they forget to be mindful of possible dangers that await. The promotional offer you stumbled on was unbelievably low and since you’re on a tight budget, you just had to take the deal. But, did you check reviews about the travel agent?

This is one of the traps that netizen-victims fall into – you don’t really know who is on the keyboard at the other end. Online scams are on top of the list of cybercrimes reported to the Philippine National Police’s Anti-Cybercrime Group, which include online buying/selling and investment fraud.

Not techie enough? No worries. You can adopt some practices that will allow you to protect yourselves and create a safe environment for browsing or using social networking sites thereby avoiding becoming victims of scams and other types of cybercrime.

If you stumble upon service providers as in the above example, be sure to check first the identity of who is behind it. It won’t hurt a bit if you check for reviews and endorsements.

For non-techies, learn how to understand firewalls and anti-malware software that you can use with your devices. If it is too technical for you, ask a friend who is technically adept for assistance.

It would be good practice for you to clean up your cookies regularly. What are cookies? A cookie is a bit of meaningful information that is sent by a website and stored in your device. It is used to keep track of some of your activities – which pages you went through, if logged into the website, the particular items you bought and others. Websites actually “remember” you with the cookies you leave behind. This is how some websites improve your experience as you go through their webpages. It can tailor your experience based on previous cookies stored in your device. If you don’t know how to clean up your cookies, then ask a friend who knows how to do it. Learn from your friend.

Learn how to manage the privacy and security settings of their social network accounts.

Limit the amount and kind of personal information you share. If it is not necessary, then don’t.

Anything you post, including pictures and comments, can be shared several times over. So, be careful with your post. Be sure to ask your friends to remove posts about you that you are not comfortable with. By the same token, be welcoming to remove posts that your friends ask you to remove.

Social networks are great. It allows you to get connected with friends and family. It can be fun. But it is best to limit your connections with those who you personally know.

Avoid those pop-ups. You never know where those will lead to.

Do not click on links you find in your email. Better still, ignore emails from unknown sources.

Do not respond to requests for you to update your credit card information or your bank accounts, whether by email or through social media. Banks and credit card companies do not usually do this unless absolutely necessary. In the event that you receive such a request, it would be good practice to check with your bank or credit card company first. They maintain a very strict “Know Your Customer” process.

Learn how to manage your passwords. Use a different password for each account. Do not use or create passwords based on personal information. Experts suggest a password of at least 12 characters long with numbers and/or punctuation marks in it. This could be challenging to remember specially if you have a number of social network and email accounts. Well, you can use a verse from your favorite song or poem or a sentence from your favorite novel.

Do not post anything about your vacation plans or while you are away. If you wish to share your vacation or travel experience, best to do it when you are back home. There might be some criminals prowling social networking sites and might stumble on your post.

Safe surfing everyone!


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