As busy, independent massage therapists, embracing online resources is key to successfully running your business. More than ever there are tons of great online resources that help you build a successful business. That’s the good news. The bad news is that as busy professionals it’s easy to get duped unless you’re really paying attention.
Laura Allen recently highlighted a major scandal that affected dozens of massage therapists across the country. Read her blog detailing the serious issues here: Gobsmacked. Email scams targeting massage therapists have also been rampant in the past. Julie Onofrio on Massage Practice Builder highlights specific details of these convincing email scams here: Massage Therapists Beware–Email Scams.
Every year more and more online con artists use clever schemes to defraud millions of people. Scam artists look like you and me. Be Fraud Aware points out that, “They often look professional and have impressive offices and addresses so you will think they are legitimate professionals. They can be very intelligent. They know how to be extremely sociable and charming. If you catch them in a lie, they will make up another lie so quickly that you will seldom, if ever, notice.”
This blog is meant to serve as an important reminder to busy, independent massage therapists about how to avoid scams and keep their security in check.
Be critical of glowing reviews and do your research
Some scammers set up “specialty” sites selling a particular type of product. Those can be full of glowing reviews from shills who are compensated for their posts, and may not include any mediocre or negative reviews because they’ve been deleted.
In the age of blogging, social media, and video webinars it’s easy to feel like you truly know someone you’ve never met. It seems impossible that someone who posts such adorable cat photos could be a con artist! It’s important to remember that the warm fuzzy interactions on Facebook could also be a veil for fraud.
Before you hand your hard-earned money to a business or person you’ve only met online, do your homework. If they’re a massage therapist in a licensed jurisdiction, make a phone call and confirm they’re licensed. Find unbiased references for them from people you trust. Before you pay for a website design, check out their portfolio and make a phone call to one of their previous clients. Ask if the designer was easy or awful to work with, and how satisfied they are with the service and product they purchased. The same rules apply for any aspect of business services or consulting that you purchase. Want to be really prepared before you dive into a new venture? Our friends Laura Allen and Cherie Sohnen-Moe get into the nitty gritty here.
Report online scams
If you think you may have been scammed:
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. If you are outside the U.S., file a complaint at econsumer.gov. Complaints are entered into the Consumer Sentinel Network, an online database used by hundreds of law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
- Visit ftc.gov/idtheft, where you’ll find out how to minimize your risk of identity theft.
- Report scams to your state Attorney General.
If you get unsolicited email offers or spam, send the messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you get what looks like lottery material from a foreign country through the postal mail, give it to your local postmaster.
Use strong passwords and security settings
The most common password used on Facebook accounts is…. wait for it… Password. This won’t stop even an unseasoned hacker. Neither will your firstborn’s name and birth year (Kayden93) or your cat’s name combined with her favorite affectionate gesture (Mittensbutterflykisses). The best passwords are not even words, but a collection of letters, numbers and symbols that don’t make much sense to anyone but you. But if it doesn’t make sense, how will you remember it? Kelli Wise suggests using a mnemonic that you’ll always be able to recall.
Take advantage of the security options provided by social networking sites and email providers like Google. Check out 2-step verification and how it can protect all your stuff. When choosing appropriate options, err on the side of privacy to better protect your information. These services may change their options periodically, so regularly evaluate your security and privacy settings, looking for changes and ensuring that your selections are still appropriate.
Do NOT click a link to your bank or financial institution from an email
Your bank or legit services like Paypal will never email you asking you to click a link to verify your information, reset your password, or login to view anything. You should simply create a browser bookmark to your bank, and when you receive an email, use the bookmark or type in the bank name manually into the address bar.
The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. Scammers would love to convince you that you’re entitled to a surprise refund, or that you owe an extra chunk of cash. You can see the typical IRS scams and see how to report them here.
Do not give out your personal info or Social Security number
This should go without saying, but no legitimate site is going to ask you to enter your Social Security number unless you are applying for credit. You should be very careful not to divulge your personal information to anybody online. The same thing goes for sites that ask you to re-enter your personal information, even though in some cases, like your bank, they should already have that information.
Give only to established charities after a disaster
In the aftermath of a disaster, give to established charities, rather than one that has sprung up overnight. Pop-up charities probably don’t have the infrastructure to get help to the affected areas or people, and they could be collecting the money to finance illegal activity. For more donating tips, check out ftc.gov/charityfraud.
Tips for safer online shopping
Shopping online is a ridiculously convenient way of comparing products online to get the best price. There are steps you can take to decrease your risk of becoming a victim of credit card fraud and ensure safer transactions online, including use of some new ways of paying for stuff:
- Stored-value cards (cards that you can buy with specified, loaded dollar amounts)
- Smart cards (cards that can act as credit cards, debit cards and/or stored-value cards)
- Digital cash
- E-wallets, like Google Wallet
Use websites you know and trust. There’s no guarantee your accounts and online dealings are 100% secure, but using credible, established websites and businesses can help you minimize privacy or security troubles.
Look for digital certificates that authenticate the entity you are dealing with. Independent services like VeriSign will authenticate the identity of the Web site you are visiting. Web sites that use this service (usually those that sell items or services online) will have the VeriSign logo. By clicking on the logo, you can be assured that the site is legitimate, rather than a clone of the legitimate company set up to collect your personal and financial information.
Use the latest Internet browser. Using the most recent browser ensures that the data is protected using the latest encryption technology. This technology also uses a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which is an Internet security protocol used by Internet browsers and Web servers to transmit sensitive information. The server receiving the data uses special “keys” to decode it. You can make sure you are on an SSL by checking the URL — the http at the beginning of the address should have changed to https. Also, you should notice a small lock icon in the status bar at the bottom of your browser window.
In Internet Explorer, you will see a lock icon in the Security Status bar. The Security Status bar is located on the right side of the Address bar.
In Chrome you’ll see this:
Only use one credit card for all of your online purchases.
Never give out passwords or user ID information online unless you know who you are dealing with and why they need it. Don’t give it out to your Internet service provider if you get an e-mail requesting it, anyone requesting your login information for that matter. These types of “Phishing” scams are used to access your account and get your credit card number, along with whatever other personal information is there.
Keep records of all of your Internet transactions. Watch your credit card statement for the charges and make sure they’re accurate.
Check your email after you’ve made purchases online. Merchants often send confirmation e-mails or other communications about your order.
Comments from original Massamio post:
Thanks for posting this. A great reminder that will be bookmarked. — Posted @ Monday, October 21, 2013 9:55 AM by Robin
Hi Allissa, love this article very thorough thanks for being so giving in your efforts to promote massage therapy. 🙂 — Posted @ Monday, October 28, 2013 9:57 AM by Mara Nicandro