How To// Don’t Get Scammed Online!

Haley Wernz, Reporter

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Picture it. You’re on Twitter and a tweet catches your eye. SHAWN MENDES PREGNANT WITH ANOTHER MAN’S CHILD! You gasp a little as you retweet it– scandalous! Did you even consider the validity of it? Of course you didn’t. 

Since October 12, there has been a viral tweet floating around about Chick-Fil-A, and their shenanigans when it comes to being some evil, corporate giant who hates the LBGT community. 

According to Twitter user @sloppyposts, “Today Uganda announced a bill to legalize murdering gay people. National Christian Organization paid a preacher to go to Uganda and help their lawmakers with the bill. Chick-Fil-A funds National Christian Org. If you eat at Chick-Fil-A, this is what your money goes to.” 

Sounds wild, right? However, it’s only partially true. Yes, the National Christian Foundation (the “National Christian Organization” is not an actual organization) has funded anti-LGBT efforts in Uganda, according to Snopes. Their only connection to Chick-Fil-A is that they have been funded by the WinShape Foundation, which was founded by Chick-Fil-A founder Truett Cathy. So, in a way, they did fund the Ugandan government, but not really.

The Ugandan bill to legalize the murder of gay people is misinformation, but it is similar to the truth. The Ugandan Minister for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo proposed the idea of making “grave acts” of homosexuality punishable by death, according to Reuters. Though homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, a similar bill in 2014 was denied by the Ugandan parliment. In short, no, Chick-Fil-A is not funding the legal murders of Ugandan homosexuals.

Tabloid magazines have been thriving off people’s naïvety for years– why would the world wide web be any different? Internet hoaxes are one of the most popular trends on social media at any given time, whether it be a 90’s chain email, last year’s “Momo,” or the classic “share in three seconds or your mommy DIES!”.  Why? Because people don’t take the time to fact-check what they read, or even think about it a little bit, they just keep circulating it. You catch a little bit of spicy drama on your timeline and absorb the information without even considering it like a sponge. In a world of misinformation, bias “fake news,” and straight up incorrect information, you really need to watch out for yourself. There are even ways to be scammed out of your money and identity online if you aren’t careful. But the big question is: how do you protect yourself from getting conned on the internet?

Think Critically!

First of all, you need to learn how to think critically. If you come across something online and you aren’t too sure about the legitimacy of it, you need to ask yourself: “Is this real?” This can apply to a lot of hoax-esque things online– suspicious products being marketed to you by your favorite Kardashian, clickbait articles, and even scammy emails. If you take a second to consider the validity of things you come across, you might be able to save yourself from phishing scams, identity theft, or worst of all… embarrassment.

Internet fraud is possibly one of the biggest scams of the modern age. In 2017,  there were roughly 16.4 million victims of some form of cybercrime–a record high, according to Javelin Study and Research. A good way to keep yourself safe from these scams is to make sure you read things CAREFULLY before handing over any personal information. No, that Nigerian prince is not going to give you millions of dollars if you trade over your credit card information. If something seems suspicious to you (whether it be a clickbait article, a cheap product, or spam email), steer clear!

Look For CREDIBLE Sources

So, you’re back on Twitter. You see a pretty scalding tweet– KIM KARDASHIAN ARRESTED FOR DRUG LAUNDERING! Sounds pretty legit, right? You retweet and move on. Except… it’s not true. You didn’t know, since you didn’t check for any sources. Sometimes, if you look at the comments under a tweet you can scout out more info on the topic. Maybe the original poster linked to their sources under the tweet? Even if they did, there’s no guarantee it’s a credible source. 

    In some cases, noncredible sources have some sort of agenda to push out incorrect information, whether it be for political, financial, biased, or humor purposes. A big red flag for sources include:

  • Blogs or other self published works (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc)
  • Old news sites– if it’s over 5 years old you might want to check for more accurate sources
  • Gossip sites (unless those are extinct now), like Yahoo! and TMZ
  • Humor sites like The Onion or Clickhole— some people don’t understand the joke and will circulate “fake news” as if it’s real

    For gossip-y news, there’s not really much you can do beyond look for sources that show the evidence of the celebrity doing whatever they’re accused of. Of course, sometimes it doesn’t even matter if they did it or not– rumors spiral.

Check For Yourself

To keep yourself in the know, keep your news unbiased. That’s hard in this day and age, especially since 6 corporate giants own pretty much every news source, and even the government can censor what they want, when they want (remember . Good unbiased news sources include:

  • The Associated Press
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • BBC
  • Reuters

Honestly, if you just try to keep away from getting your news from social media, you’ll be fine. We don’t know who’s saying what online, and we don’t know where they’re getting their info.

 If you’re worried that something is a scam, there are ways to tell (unless it’s obvious; ever won a free IPad online? Just hand over your credit card info and they’ll send it over!). Make sure you read the URL of sites when you get onto them. Some phishing sites can have domains SIMILAR to the domains they’re imitating. That’s why you have to read them carefully. Make sure the web address has only ONE “.com” (or whatever). A good indicator is making sure the domain/web address has HTTPS in it, not HTTP. The S stands for “secure,” as in secure connection. 

 

“Um, ACTUALLY…”

Educate others! If you find out someone’s spreading lies online, speak out. Whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, etc, there is going to be at least SOME misinformation. That’s just how the Internet is. Fearmongering, “fake news,” fake drama, whatever you wanna call it– it should all get debunked. 

If you find a scam online, report it. You can report scams to sites such as: 

  • Scam Guard 
  • Fraud Support 

For serious online crime (credit card fraud, identity theft, etc), there are government sites you can report to, such as: 

  • Internet Crime Claim Center (IC3)
  • FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) Online Tip Site 

However, it is a crime itself to report fraudulent and fake crimes, so make sure your information is correct and precise. If you are caught giving the FBI misinformation you can be subjected to a fine, imprisonment or both, according to Title 18, US Code, Section 1001. 

Resources to Keep Yourself Educated

    Sometimes, it’s just too hard to check things for yourself, or maybe you want to make sure there are credible sources about whether or not something is real. That’s why there are sites such as Truth Or Fiction and Snopes, which frequently debunk “fake news” on the internet or news sites. Snopes has been accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), meaning what is said on their website is the truth about situations and hoaxes. For specifically political news, you can find fact checks online like the organization Fact Check, or even National Public Radio (NPR).