This is a very important reminder about protecting your personal data:
- Protect your user id and passwords at all times and do not share them with others. Financial institutions do not need to access your computer. That is an emerging scam. Please change your password frequently and do not hang your passwords on or around your computer.
- Be mindful that the IRS, your bank or credit union, major retail stores and online merchants (such as Amazon) do not need you to confirm your account number, credit card, Social Security number, or other data. Scammers often use the names of well-known businesses to attempt to gather personal information through email links or text links. For example, receiving a text stating your Amazon account will be locked if you do not confirm your payment information. If you check your Amazon account, you will find it is fine.
- Your power company is not going to turn off your power if you have paid your bill regularly. Please be mindful that this and other “urgent” actions are designed by scammers to upset you and catch you off guard.
- A common scam is for package tracking by Amazon, UPS, or FedEx where you will be asked to re-confirm payment information or your package will not be shipped. This is likely to increase as we enter the holiday season.
- Your grandchild is not in jail requesting bail in a foreign country. Your neighbor has not lost their passport – do not wire money. They often have a reason why they can’t talk to you – throat cancer, being detained, lack of phone service. These are scams – don’t worry about being polite; hang up immediately.
- Scammers can find information about you online – phone number, address, age, even the names of relatives. They may prey upon the elderly utilizing some of this information as they seek to obtain other information. Again, hang up.
- If anyone asks you to go buy gift cards such as “Green Dot” cards and provide the number to them, do not do so. The money will be gone immediately and not traceable!
- If someone notifies you that you have one an award, prize, or sweepstakes but must provide your bank account or credit card information to claim the prize, it is a scam.
- Natural disasters such as hurricanes, wildfires, or floods as well as current world circumstances such as epidemics or wars are common occasions for scammers seeking to raise funds. Other common scams are those calling pretending to be from police or other law enforcement agencies. Please do not give money out over the phone or internet. Always research charities to make sure they are legitimate before giving.
- Be mindful of romance scams on dating websites, always having some reason why they need money (sick family members, need it for supplies to cure sick children, cannot travel back because of needing money for visa, etc.) – always promising to visit but always having an excuse at the last minute why they cannot. Often, they will pretend to hold prestigious positions including as royalty, doctors, lawyers, high ranking military officials. They can be very convincing.
- Consult with your credit card companies about fraud alerts and other protections they can place on your cards against unusual charges.
- Be mindful of information you share on social media – particularly in quizzes or questions like “Who was your first grade teacher?” “What was your first car?” “What is your mother’s first name?” “Where was your first plane trip?” Those are all attempts to gather security information.
- Do not email drivers licenses, medical cards, statements, or tax returns on unencrypted emails. Encrypt any email with personal identifiable information in the body of the email or as attachments. Personal identifiable information can be handed to, faxed, or mailed to your professionals.
- Consider adding “two factor authentication” to your accounts in which you have to receive a code to your cell phone or email before access is granted.
- Hover your mouse over the email address to see if another email address is really where the message originated. Email addresses from major companies may be “spoofed” when they are actually from someplace else. There are often irregularities in the logo, grammar, website and other indications that they may be fraudulent.
- Do not be afraid to call you bank, credit card company, or retailer at the phone number on your statement (not the one provided in an email) to verify the information you have received or the directions that the caller or mailer is requesting. You will likely find that the activity is fraudulent.
- If you are selling something online, such as through a “marketplace”, someone may offer you more money and say that someone will come by your home to pick up the excess money. This is a money laundering scam. Do not engage.
- Be mindful of emails and texts from unknown senders. Do not click on links or attachments from unknown senders. Delete the email. Often these emails may have generic greetings like “Hello Bank Customer”.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, there are some actions to consider:
- Change passwords immediately. Log out of every account such as social media, email, subscriptions, etc. and change the passwords on those accounts.
- Make sure that antimalware and antivirus is up to date. Run a full system scan to see if there is any issue. Remove the issue.
A general malware scan may help to ensure that nothing malicious was installed on your machine. One place to do this would be:
- Run a Malwarebytes Antimalware Scan: https://www.malwarebytes.com/mwb-download
- Run a Malwarebytes Anti-Rootkit Scan: https://www.malwarebytes.com/antirootkit
Check the Programs & Features list and sort by “install date”. Any recently installed programs that are not recognized can be removed, although you would want to cross-check the name of the program on Google to see if it is or is not legitimate.
- Enroll in credit monitoring services from a major provider that monitors the 3 major credit bureaus. Review your bank and credit card statements upon receipt as well as check activity online to verify that no fraudulent activity has occurred. Report any fraudulent transactions immediately.
- Contacting law enforcement on the non-emergency number to let them know about a scam that is circulating in your area.
Anyone can become a victim. Stay vigilant and informed. We care about you and want to help to provide education as an ounce of prevention.