In this increasingly digital world fraud is becoming more prevalent every day. Scammers have developed more complex ways to steal information from unsuspecting individuals. As the scams and attempts to steal your identity have become more complex it is more important to learn how to protect yourself. The best way to protect yourself from fraud is to have safety measures in place before you are targeted.
Here are twelve ways to build a defense against attacks:
- Use Password protection:
It is important to protect your devices and website logins with strong passwords. Be sure not to include anything related to your username in the password. Passwords should incorporate uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols if the device or site allows.
- Use Unique Passwords:
Make sure to use different passwords for different sites and devices. If you use the same password for everything it will make it easy for hackers to access all your accounts once they have broken into one. If you can’t remember them all, keep your list of passwords in either a physical notebook or a password manager.
- Never Give Out Personal Information Over the Phone:
No matter where the caller says they are calling you from (IRS, Police, Local Bank), no organization or agency will call you and ask for personal information over the phone. Don’t allow them to pressure you into giving them personal information. Listen to your gut. Hang up if they persist and call the organization in question with the number provided on past paperwork, or by any other means than those listed by the caller.
- Regularly Check your Statements and Credit Reports:
Make sure to check your bank statements each month to see if there are unusual charges. If you do not recognize a charge, no matter how small, report it to your financial provider immediately. Fraudsters will begin with a small transaction under $5 to see if it will clear and then they will make a big purchase or withdrawal. Staying on top of your monthly statements and looking for anything suspicious is a great way to protect yourself. Some financial providers even offer to monitor your account and flag it for any suspicious activity to help protect you even further. This can help prevent even the small transactions.
- Use Debit Cards as Credit:
If you have a debit card, try to always use it to buy things as credit instead of debit. Your debit card can be processed for a purchase as either debit or credit. When processing your card as debit it deducts the money directly from your bank account and has less protection from a fraud attack. When you use the card as a credit transaction, fraud protection is available and it helps protect you if the card is charged for the wrong amount or someone gains access to that information.
- Shred Paperwork with Personal Information on it:
It is important to properly dispose of paperwork that contains personal information. Some fraudsters will even search your trash to try and find valuable information. They may also search public trash bins for receipts and other information thrown away on the go. Make sure to bring all paperwork and receipts with personal information on it home and shred them. If you cannot shred the item, black in out the personal information with a black marker or use some other method to make the personal information unreadable.
- Don’t leave mail unattended:
Not having your mail picked up by a friend when on vacation or leaving it in the mailbox for a few days puts it at risk of being stolen. If you don’t have someone you trust to come pick up the mail for you, put it on hold at the local post office instead. Some scammers with steal your mail from your mailbox if they notice it seems to be unattended.
- Set up Facebook Privacy settings:
The last place people expect fraudsters to gain personal information from is a Facebook page. Your Facebook page should always be private, not public. Facebook pages can contain a great deal of personal information that can be used to steal your identity. For example, using your actual birthday on your profile, posting your wedding date, or child’s name and date of birth leave you wide open for identity theft. Commenting on chain posts with personal information such as your pets name, your birthday, your first car, or anything else, can seem harmless but can be used to hack your accounts or steal your identity. No matter who posted it, try to avoid these, and make your profile settings just viewable to friends.
- Do not let them panic you:
If you are on the phone with someone or read mail or an email that you did not solicit from DO NOT LET THEM PANIC YOU! These people are trying to make you nervous, so you are more likely to give them the information they are asking for. If they use the words urgent, immediately, or try to make you feel like someone you care about needs your help now take a moment to back away. If you take a second to back away from the conversation and think over what they are saying to you, it will become obvious what their intentions are.
- Do not send or use checks or gift cards from those you do not know:
If someone that you do not know sends you a personal check, or bank check, do not deposit it into your account, the same goes for gift cards. A current scam being used is a check that is sent to you. They request that you deposit the check into your account and send back a portion of the amount. It states that you can keep the other portion as a thank you for helping them out. However, after you deposit the check and send out their reimbursement, the original check bounces and now you don’t have their money or your own. Same goes for gift cards as well. If you don’t know the person from the internet do not send them anything.
- Look out for Phishing:
Look out for phishing emails, texts, or social media messages. Phishing is a term used when a scammer sends you a corrupt link in hopes that you will click on it and give them access to certain information. When you receive a correspondence make sure to check for spelling mistakes, where it is coming from, and be sure not to open an email/text/message you were not expecting.
- Be critical:
No matter where the scam may come from, be critical and trust your gut on any correspondence coming from over the internet mail, or phone. Scams have been known to come through text messages, phone calls, emails, social media accounts, and even dating website. Staying alert on the latest scams and being critical about unsolicited conversations is the best way to protect yourself from fraud.
Where can you look for what scams are becoming more prevalent? A few options to look for that information include the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information website, the IRS website, and even AARP is one of those sites. They list out past stories of how scammers were able to steal from unsuspecting individuals to help you stay aware.