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(ARA) – Nearly 10 million people in the United States were victims of identity fraud last year and, over the past two years alone, Americans have lost $8.5 billion to online con artists. When online criminals are so convincing, how do you avoid becoming a victim? And how do you know if you’ve already become a victim of a cybercrime and know where to go for help?

Recently an Oregon woman lost nearly half a million dollars of her family’s retirement savings in a cyberscam. Her saga started when she used a genealogy Web site to track down her family history and ended with a cybercriminal stealing information about her and her family members. Her dramatic story is chronicled in a Web film series at

“Criminals are relentless when it comes to trying to access your personal information, credit and bank accounts. We call it H*Commerce or hacker commerce,” says Pamela Warren, cybercrime strategist at McAfee, the world’s largest dedicated security technology company. “The sad news is that consumers sometimes lose hundreds of thousands of dollars or sometimes their life savings to these cybercrooks.”
Warren shares best practices and telltale warning signs that you have been the victim of a cybercrime, and what to do about it:

Telltale sign 1:
You find unexplained charges or suspicious activity on one or more of your financial accounts.

What to do:
Contact your financial institutions immediately and report the crime to law enforcement agencies. If you find the transaction was fraudulent, consider placing a fraud alert on your accounts with the three credit reporting agencies.

How to keep it from happening to you:
Cybercriminals are incredibly savvy at creating legitimate looking Web sites, including sties requiring financial information. To be sure you don’t fall victim, download a safe search tool, like SiteAdvisor, that will alert you if you’re about to click on a dangerous site.

Telltale sign 2:
Your computer suddenly slows down and/or you start seeing numerous pop-up ads.

What to do:
Sudden changes in your computer’s performance can be a sign that it’s infected with spyware, viruses and other forms of malicious software. Install and update your computer security software.

How to keep it from happening to you:
Make sure the subscription to your security software is current, and you have adequate protection.  As cybercriminals evolve their tricks, you can rest assured that you’re safe.

Telltale sign 3:
You responded to an e-mail or Web site request for personal information and now think it might have been a scam.

What to do:
It’s possible you are now the victim of an online fraud that uses e-mails and Web sites looking like legitimate businesses to solicit personal or account information. Check your financial accounts. If you notice unusual activity, notify the appropriate financial institutions.

How to keep it from happening to you:
Never follow links in e-mails from businesses or people that you do not know.

If you have become the victim of an online scam, you are not alone. Tens of thousands of Americans fall prey to clever cybercriminals each year.

To diagnose your situation if you think you may be a victim of cybercrime, and learn how to stay safe in the future, visit McAfee’s Cybercrime Response Unit at

The CRU acts as an “online 911” and provides many tips on what to do if you’ve been scammed, information on the tactics cybercriminals use, online safety tips and resources to report cybercrime to law enforcement and other authorities. You can also speak to live experts who can directly assist you in recovering from an attack.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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