Although notorious for its use of acronym-studded jargon and geek-speak, you’d imagine that the IT industry might have at least tried to be a bit more transparent with their terminology. After all, how is an end-user like you supposed to know how to avoid online fraud if you don’t even know what half the words they use to describe it even mean?


The good news is that once you dig a bit deeper, you find many of the terms which at first seem ridiculous and confusing are actually quite descriptive:

Phishing Vishing and SMishing: Emails, Voice (phone) calls and SMS messages looking to trick you into releasing sensitive info. For instance, an email that falsely claims to be from your bank requesting information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account information after directing the user to visit a specified website. The website, however, is not genuine (a spoof) and was set up only as an attempt to steal the user’s information

Spoofing: Forged websites or communications by email or SMS that claim to be from a reliable source such as your bank

Malware/Scareware: Malicious software that is intended to damage or disable computers and computer systems. Sometimes scare tactics are used by the perpetrators to solicit funds from victims. Malware includes viruses, worms, Trojans and spyware

Social engineering – the methods attackers use to deceive and manipulate victims into performing an action or divulging confidential information. Typically, such actions include opening a malicious webpage, or running an unwanted file attachment.


That old “knowledge is power” cliché is very apt here as you’re not going to know how to avoid online fraud if you don’t even know how they might target you, let alone that the practice has its own special (made-up) name already!

Some quick common sense rules of how to avoid online fraud to start you off on the right foot:

  • Never ever give sensitive information to someone who contacts you out of the blue by any method of communication. Simple as that. Even companies you are a customer of only ask you for snippets of your information on the phone, (never your full password for instance) – though that’s not the case on the web, so:
  • Never use an email link to access your internet banking or any other account which holds your personal info. In the heat of the moment it can be easy to forget but go via your browser either using google or a link you’ve bookmarked previously and you will be taken to the genuine site where you can doublecheck the authenticity of the communication you’ve received
  • On that note, if an email looks dodgy, it probably is! Don’t click on it if you’re unsure in any way but don’t worry to much if you open it absentmindedly as nothing bad will happen unless you click on the content within. This includes the innocent looking “unsubscribe” buttons in dodgy looking emails (which I avoid as that’s where I’d hide my nasty viruses if this was my idea of fun).
  • Last tip in how to avoid online fraud is to get some good antivirus which includes malware and spyware protection (I imagine most do these days). A two-tier system is surprisingly affordable and effective and can be safer than simply relying on one company (such as Norton or McAfee) to be right up to date by themselves. For example, I combine the free Windows Defender software with HitmanPro (good value at $25 a year: when a suspicious file is detected, it will upload the file to their cloud where it will then be scanned by 5 other anti-virus vendors. Using the scan results from these vendors, HitmanPro will then decide when or not that file should be classified as malware and removed).