If you’ve felt like the number of scammy emails coming through your inbox has risen in the last year, you’re not alone. The FBI’s 2020 Internet Crime Report states that there were 300,000 more internet crimes (phishing, non-payment/non-delivery scams or extortion) complaints in 2020 than in 2019. While it’s relatively easy to avoid the more apparent phishers, online scams are getting more sophisticated and harder to spot.
Listen to this week’s episode of the rich & Regular podcast about coping with financial fraud and continue reading below to learn how to protect yourself from online scams.
Listen to your gut.
Most of us know the obvious scams like being asked to send your bank details so you can claim foreign lottery winnings, or princes of foreign lands looking for assistance in moving fortunes away from rebel fighters. While these blatant attempts can sometimes be comical, the danger is real and often more subtle than we realize.
If something feels wrong or weird about an email, text message or website, pay attention to your gut, and use the tips below to help protect you from online scams.
Keep your devices up to date.
Ensuring you have the most up-to-date software, browsers and operating systems can help keep your computer protected from malware, viruses and other malicious software. Make sure you have automatic updates turned on for your devices so that you are covered with the most recent versions available.
Check your credit report quarterly.
We advise checking your credit report as part of your financial well-being, but it’s also a great way to make sure someone isn’t using your bank or credit cards without your knowledge. Review your report frequently for any odd transactions or fraudulent postings.
Remember, you are entitled to request one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from the three major credit bureaus, and through April 2022, you can pull your credit report each week as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Be wary of social media.
We’ve all accidentally given out more information than we intended to on social media. While sometimes that’s just an embarrassing overshare, hackers often use that personal information to gain access to your accounts and passwords.
Don’t respond to any of those fun posts that ask you to name your favorite color, your first car or the month you were born. That’s one way that scammers find personal information that might potentially be used in a password.
It’s also a good idea to ensure that you have the highest password and security settings enabled on your social media accounts, browsers and internet modems.
Don’t use public wifi.
Be wary of the sites you visit when using public or unsecured wifi. Try to avoid logging into your bank or any other sensitive sites that might allow hackers to gain valuable information about you or your passwords.
Consider using a password manager.
Password managers store your website and account passwords using an encrypted database. Using these ensures that you only have to remember the manager’s password, and the software takes care of the rest. Password managers can also suggest strong passwords for new accounts so that you are less likely to be hacked, and also often have features that alert you to phishing websites trying to steal your data.
Don’t click on links.
It’s unlikely that your bank or other financial institution will ask you to confirm your password, account numbers or additional sensitive information via email, and they certainly won’t do it without any prior communication from you.
If you receive an email out of the blue, make sure you’re looking for any detail that might be out of place before clicking a link you’re not sure about. When in doubt, visit the legitimate website using a different browser window or search for the main customer service line.
Watch out for the senior citizens in your life.
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging states that seniors lose about $3 billion each year to online scams. Remind the seniors in your life that giving personal details over email or the phone is dangerous, and someone calling claiming to raise money for a charity might be lying.
Too good to be true?
Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. While being paranoid doesn’t help and often causes additional anxiety, practicing good judgment, and searching for details out of place, and keeping a close eye on your banking accounts and credit report are excellent ways to protect yourself from online scams.