Privacy, Security, and Fraud Protection — Online and Mobile Security

Online and Mobile Security

For many consumers, filling out forms and providing sensitive personal information has become almost second nature, but it’s important to be alert and aware of the potential risks online. Online scams are constantly changing and evolving, but several common types to watch out for include:

  • Phishing (“fishing”)—This scam involves a fake e-mail, instant message, or a social media message that looks like it comes from a legitimate source like your bank, a government agency (like the IRS), or an online service such as PayPal, Facebook or eBay. The message asks you to update, validate, or confirm your account information—including your password—and many threaten to terminate your account if you don't respond. The e-mail typically includes a link that directs you to a fake Web site that looks just like a legitimate organization's site.
  • "SMiShing"—This is the cell phone version of "Phishing." Using fake company e-mails, scammers send text messages that appear to be from well-known companies but contain links to counterfeit Web pages that have been made to look nearly identical to legitimate companies' sites. The text messages suggest that there is an urgent need for you to take action to update personal information to avoid an unwanted service, charge or another potential threat to your account. The Web sites then ask you to enter financial and personal information—like user IDs, Social Security Numbers, bank or credit card account numbers, and ATM passwords.
  • “Malware”—More and more online fraud is the result of malicious software (“malware”) that can invade your computer when you open an attachment, click on a pop-up ad, or download a game, song, screensaver, or other application. Attacks often still begin with an e-mail, but the goal is to get you to install the malware on your computer where it can then be used to record your keystrokes, gather credit card numbers, passwords, and other personal information and sending the data directly back to the thieves.
  • Fake emergency appeals—This scam involves an instant message or e-mail appearing to be from someone you know or someone who claims to know you. The writer typically claims their wallet was stolen in a foreign country and they need funds wired in order to return home. This scam has even been conducted through social networking sites.
  • Charitable solicitation scams—Many legitimate charities use telemarketing, direct mail, e-mail, and online ads to ask for contributions. However, often following major humanitarian disasters, scammers have sent e-mail purporting to be from a charitable organization, urging consumers to follow a link and donate or even send cash. E-mail may also come from individuals claiming to be a victim asking for a donation.

Tips for shopping safely online

  • Use secure online shopping sites. To ensure that your information is protected when shopping online, look for an unbroken key, or padlock at the bottom of your Web browser. When you’re asked to provide payment information, the beginning of the Web site’s URL address should change from http to shttp or https, indicating that the purchase is encrypted or secured.
  • Check out the seller. When buying online, look for online merchants who are members of a seal-of-approval program that sets voluntary guidelines for privacy-related practices, such as TRUSTeVerisign, or BBBonline. If it’s your first time on an unfamiliar site, call the seller’s phone number, so you know you can reach them if you need to. If you can’t find a working phone number, take your business elsewhere.
  • Consider how you’ll pay. Credit cards generally are a safe option because they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered. Don’t send cash or use a money-wiring service because you’ll have no recourse if something goes wrong.
  • Use caution with social media. Social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, are increasingly used by retailers to promote new deals and disseminate coupons. Unfortunately, scammers are also using these sites. Keep this in mind when using social media tools and be particularly suspicious of messages or promotions you did not sign up to receive. Instead of following links, go directly to the store’s Web site and navigate to find the special sale item.
  • Keep your password private. When selecting a password, do not use commonly known information, such as your name, birth date, or numbers from your driver's license or Social Security Number. Don’t use the same password for multiple sites.
  • Keep a paper trail. Print and save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and copies of any e-mail you exchange with the seller. Read your credit card statements as soon as you get them to make sure there aren’t any unauthorized charges.
  • Use a secure computer. When you’re away from home, do not save private information onto public computers. If you're accessing a private account at the library or another public place, be sure to sign out completely from your accounts and don’t save sign in information (like your username or password).

How can I make online shopping safer?

Your online security depends on how well you protect your information. Watch this video for tips on safer online shopping.

Play Video Now! (2:44 mins)
  • 21% of internet users have had an email or social networking account compromised or taken over by someone else without permission.
  • 13% of internet users have experienced trouble in a relationship between them and a family member or a friend because of something the user posted online.
  • 12% of internet users have been stalked or harassed online. From 2013 Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project
  • 11% of internet users have had important personal information stolen such as their Social Security Number, credit card, or bank account information.
  • 6% of internet users have been the victim of an online scam and lost money.
  • 6% of internet users have had their reputation damaged because of something that happened online.
  • 4% of internet users have been led into physical danger because of something that happened online.
  • 1% of internet users have lost a job opportunity or educational opportunity because of something they posted online or someone posted about them.

This site is for education purposes. The material provided on this site is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any Capital One product or service to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional.