Avoid online scams and identity theft

contact: Tonya Durlach
| WMU News

Exercise caution with online interactions.

KALAMAZOO—October is Cyber Security Month and Western Michigan University is reminding students, faculty and staff to exercise caution and common sense in their online dealings.

Nancy Kroes, Web and communication lead for WMU's Office of Information Technology, says online scams are often used to gather personal information, introduce viruses or malicious software, or gain control of an individual's email or social media account. One of the most commonly used methods is phishing.

Phishing is a way of gaining usernames, passwords, credit card numbers or other personal information by masquerading as a trustworthy person or organization in an email. Communications purporting to be from WMU, popular social media sites or online payment processors are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public. Phishing often directs users to enter details at a fake website that looks and feels similar to the legitimate one.

"If you are unsure about the legitimacy of an email, do not click any links, open any attachments or release any personal information," Kroes says. "Call the organization or send an email to customer service asking about the email request. It's always better to be safe than sorry."

Kroes offers the following tips from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for avoiding online scams and identity theft:


  • Stop hackers from accessing your accounts by setting secure passwords.
  • Stop sharing too much information. Keep your personal information personal.
  • Stop and trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, stop what you are doing.
  • Stop and think about who can see the information you post online. Are you giving total strangers access to your information?
  • Stop any questionable online behavior. Only do and say things online that you would do in real life.


  • Think about the information you want to share before you share it.
  • Think how your online actions could affect your offline life.
  • Think before you act. Don't automatically click on links.
  • Think about why you are sharing information online. Is it going to be safe?
  • Think about why you are going to a site. Were you sent there by someone you trust? Are you sure it was really them?
  • Think about who you are talking to online. Do you really know who they are?


  • Connect over secure networks.
  • Connect with people you know.
  • Connect with care and be on the lookout for potential threats.
  • Connect safely and show your friends and family how to behave online.

Visit wmich.edu/it for more cyber security tips.