How do you protect yourself from online swindles and spam? An article in the New York Times by Azadeh Ensha tried to answer that question. Here is my abbreviated version:
Though the major search engines discourage such deception, it is easy to fall victim to a Web scam. For example, be deeply suspicious of websites that sell designer bags, electronics and watches at surprisingly low prices. You are either dealing with a fake or, in the case of electronics, with a refurbished used machine.
When it comes to email, look before you click. I live in a warehouse district that is very cool, but has no shopping. So I order everything from toilet paper to medication on line. Recently, I received an email that claimed to be from DHL - a helpful link to track my package was provided. Except I never have anything delivered via DHL. So I googled "DHL scam" and found that indeed the email is fraudulent and aims to infect your computer with malware when you click on the link. Delete these emails immediatly.
In addition, before making any purchase on a lesser-known site, take a look around. Does it look like it was put together by a teenager for a school project or does it seem legit? Remember "On the Internet Nobody Knows You're a Dog." And the converse holds true - you don't necessarily know who's a dog either.
Grammar and spelling errors may signal that the owner is based elsewhere. And if you spot the term “free” scrawled across a Web site, well proceed at your own risk.
Azadeh points out: "It is important to know what separates a potential spam site from a harmless one. The difference may be counterintuitive. For example, pornography domains may be safer to browse than some mainstream content...online advertisements are 182 times more likely to deliver malicious content than pornographic sites.
He adds, "Be wary of Web pages that oversell you on their supposed legitimacy. One Better Business Bureau logo is fine. A series of logos promoting a site’s professionalism or expertise is a red flag."
Remember: "Common Sense Is Neither Common nor Sense."