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Sheriff’s Office: Beware of cybertheft

February 27, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , North Fort Myers Neighbor

Cybertheft is a problem that everyone is vulnerable to, especially as thieves become savvier and more sophisticated.

That means we all need to become savvier as well, the Lee County Sheriff's Office said Thursday at a cybertheft seminar held at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center.

Michelle Sargis, crime prevention practitioner with the LCSO, said the ways cyberthieves can scam people are endless, and it is older individual who are the ones most often targeted.

"It's sad that the senior population is the one being targeted, preying on their trustworthiness of others and going after their assets," Sargis said.

Some of the scams are still easy to spot. Phone and mail scams still exist, although not to the extent as before, and the lottery scams and other e-mail ones can be easy to spot if you know what to look for.

But most people's lives now center on the internet and social media. People shop, bank and share pictures online and so we have become victims of our own technology, Sargis said.

We share too much of ourselves on social media, and those are the means cyberthieves use to try to get into peoples' lives and get as much information as they can," Sargis said. "That leaves people open to becoming victims."

People tend to be most vulnerable when it comes to money. If they see a chance to win a large sum of money, that is one of the best ways to become a victim, and scammers know that.

"Who doesn't want to be a winner, to have an extra $1,000? That's a problem, especially with people on a fixed income who are hard on their luck," Sargis said. "People always want to have that one big win. What they don't realize is that it's too good to be true."

Fake websites are also a problem, and today's scammers can make a fake site look almost identical to a real one. You need to be careful when you Google search because you might land on the wrong site.

The best way we can defend ourselves is constant vigilance, looking out for clues, and always use your credit card, not the debit card. The latter way is most important.

"Debit cards have an attachment to your checking account. Many people have overdraft protection through their savings account. So, if the debit card number is hacked, all the money could be drained from their checking and savings account," Sargis said. "Banks will investigate it, but you may go months without seeing that money."

Other things people can do is strengthen their passwords, stay off public Wi-Fi and be careful of even legit sites like online dating, because there may be scammers on those sites.

Many of those who attended the seminar have been targeted, but are keenly aware of the traps and do their best to avoid them.

James Bing, of Fort Myers, said he was educated about some things he was not aware of before.

"We don't always educate ourselves to what's going on outside our own sphere. I haven't been a victim, but you protect yourself as much as possible," Bing said, adding that he does not use Facebook. "I see the mistakes that I and people around me have made and they've been victimized."



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