Posted by Kim Sanchez, director, Trustworthy Computing Communications, Microsoft

On average, adults in the U.S. have experienced at least eight different types of online scams. According to the Microsoft Scam Defense Survey, individuals are most vulnerable to risks such as fraudulent and malicious links, online identity theft, and the loss of sensitive personal information. 

Deceptive tactics are becoming even more effective at tricking even the most aware.  For example, rogue security software often disguises itself as virus alerts, displaying fake warnings with the intent to confuse unfamiliar users. Consumers can learn to become more savvy when it comes to identifying these scam attempts by using the new Real vs. Rogue Facebook app from Microsoft.  This app features an interactive quiz that uses actual scam screen images to walk people through a number of security scenarios, and helps them learn to tell if a security warning is from real antivirus software or from rogue security software.

Sixty two percent of adults doubt they will ever fall victim to an online ruse, yet only 12 percent said they feel fully protected.  As part of shoring up defenses against online fraud, the Real vs. Rogue Facebook app can help people learn to think twice before clicking on a security warning. 

Additionally, people should:
• Treat suspicious messages with caution – Don’t respond, and don’t put sensitive information in an email, instant or text message, or pop-up window.
• Think before clicking links or calling a number in a message, even if the sender is known.  Also, first confirm the message is genuine.
• Look for signs that a webpage 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 a primary email only with people and organizations known to the individual; not listing personal email address publicly, and only “friending” people known to the individual.  Also, setting spam email filter to Standard or High.
• Protecting computer and accounts – This includes keeping all software (including web browsers and spam filters) current with automatic updating; installing legitimate antivirus and antispyware software; always keeping a firewall on, and not using the same password everywhere.

At Microsoft, instilling safer online habits and practices is called 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 website, and we regularly post new guidance and tips to our social media properties: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.  We want everyone to take positive steps this New Year, and learn how to protect their families from fraud, scams, and other online risks.

Take the Real vs. Rogue quiz to test your knowledge.