Posted by Jacqueline Beauchere
Director, Trustworthy Computing Communications, Microsoft

Lottery scams, advance-fee fraud, phishing attacks and fake anti-virus alerts. These are just a few ways criminals are attempting to gain access to your personal information to steal money, and impersonate you or hijack your good name. On average, adults in the U.S. have been exposed to eight different types of online scams, according to a new Microsoft survey. Learn to better protect yourself and fight back during National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM).

According to Microsoft’s Scam Defense Survey, conducted and released to coincide with NCSAM 2012, the top five most common scams encountered by adults in the U.S. are:

· Lottery or “Congratulations, you’ve won!” scams, promising free items or coupons (44 percent)

· Fake antivirus alerts that imitate real programs (40 percent)

· Phishing scams that use fake e-mails to trick people into clicking embedded links (39 percent)

· Advance-fee fraud, noting that a “foreign prince,” for example, wants to send you money – you

just need to pay the taxes and fees up front (39 percent), and

· So-called work-from-home schemes to help you “start your own business” (38 percent).

Confidence schemes and other such attempts to separate people from their hard-earned money have existed since time immemorial, and the advent of the Internet has only perpetuated such risks. Cunning fraudsters are becoming ever more effective at tricking even the savviest of consumers. Indeed, 62 percent of respondents to our survey said they doubt they will ever fall victim to an online ruse, yet only 12 percent said they feel fully protected. Learning to beef up personal and technological defenses with a few anti-fraud practices may save you a lot of time and effort later. For instance:

· Treat suspicious messages with caution – Don’t respond, and don’t put sensitive information in an e-mail, instant or text message, or pop-up window.

· Think before you click links or call a number in a message, even if you think you know the sender. Also, first confirm the message is genuine.

· Look for signs that a Web page is secure and legitimate – Check for encryption, such as a web address with https (“s” stands for secure) and a closed padlock.

· Cut down on spam by sharing your primary e-mail only with people and organizations you know; not listing your e-mail address publicly, and only “friending” people you’ve met in person. Also, set your spam e-mail filter to Standard or High.

· Protect your computer and accounts – This includes keeping all software (including your Web browser and spam filters) current with automatic updating; installing legitimate antivirus and antispyware software; always keeping your firewall on, and not using the same password everywhere.

At Microsoft, we call this fostering digital citizenship, and we encourage individuals and organizations globally to do their part. We create and offer a large collection of materials on our safety and security website, and we regularly post new guidance and tips to our social media properties: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Get proactive this October, and learn to protect yourself and your family from fraud, scams and other online risks.