8 simple ways to protect yourself from fraud.
Fraud is rampant these days and it often feels like it comes in every form, from every direction. Today’s scammers are very savvy and can be hard to detect before it’s too late. Here are eight tips that will help you, your family, and friends from being a victim of fraud.
1. Never Wire Money to a Stranger
At some point or another, you’ve probably received an odd email from a wealthy prince whose father/mother/brother recently died and left him a huge fortune. Because of his noble status in a foreign country, the prince needs your help transferring the millions of dollars from a U.S. account. In return, he will reward you handsomely with hundreds of thousands of dollars! All you have to do is wire $5,000 to him.
It’s one of the oldest internet scams, but consumers still fall for this rip-off or some variation of it. No matter what situation they posture– whether you receive an email from a wealthy traveler who needs your help getting back to the U.S. or your long-lost cousin who claims to be in an emergency – NEVER wire money to a stranger. Once you wire cash (especially overseas), it’s virtually impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money. If you’re worried about your cousin, contact her personally. She’ll probably be safe at home, and you can alert her that her email’s been hacked.
One of these "Wealthy Princes" was recently detained and charged in December of 2017. To no one's surprise, he turned out to be a 67-year-old man from Louisiana.3 This particular brand of the scheme first popped up in the 1980s and Americans have lost millions of dollars to the scam.4
2. Don’t Give Out Financial Information
Never reveal sensitive financial information to a person or business you don’t know, whether they reach out to you via phone, text, or email. Scammers will sometimes email or call you, claiming to be from a retailer, financial institution, or government agency. They may say your account has been compromised or needs to be updated. Often, these crooks are trying to con you into giving them your credit card number, Social Security number, or other financial information.
This common scam is known as phishing. Remember, your bank or credit card company will never contact you and ask for your personal information. If you receive a suspicious call or email and are concerned about your account, call the credit card company or bank directly to check on your account status.
3. Never Click on Hyperlinks in Emails
If you receive an email from a stranger or company asking you to click on a hyperlink or open an attachment and then enter your financial information, delete the email immediately. Even if the email appears to be from your bank or credit card company, it’s more likely a scam known as pharming. The Better Business Bureau advises consumers to ignore and delete any emails that make these kinds of requests.5
4. Use Tough-To-Crack Passwords
These days, a password like “12345” or “P@ssword” just isn’t going to cut it. Hackers can easily crack passwords that are simple number combinations or a common pet name. Create passwords that are at least eight characters long and include some lower- and upper-case letters, numbers, and special characters. You should also use a different password for every website you visit.
But how on earth are you expected to remember 20 different passwords that look something like this: “5Rg6&*eQ$3”? A password program like RoboForm or LastPass can help. These handy programs help you generate strong passwords, and securely and quickly access them when you need them.
5. Never Give out Your Social Security Number
If you receive an email or visit a website that asks for your Social Security number, don’t do it. It’s likely a scam. Legitimate businesses rarely ask for this information.
6. Install Antivirus and Spyware Protection
Protect the sensitive information stored on your computer by installing antivirus, firewall, and spyware protection. Once you install the program, turn on the auto-updating feature to make sure the software is always up to date.
7. Don’t Shop with Unfamiliar Online Retailers
When it comes to online shopping, only do business with familiar companies. If you’re interested in purchasing a product from an unfamiliar retailer, do some research to ensure the business is legit and trustworthy. Visit the Better Business Bureau’s website or search online for consumer feedback and complaints.
8. Don’t Download Software From Pop-Up Windows
When you’re online, be wary of pop-up windows that appear claiming your computer is unsafe. If you click on the link in the pop-up to start the “system scan” or some other program, malicious software known as “malware” could damage your operating system.
The Bottom Line
In this day and age, it seems like financial scams and rip-offs are lurking around every corner – both on and offline. (See the Federal Trade Commission’s Scam Alert for the latest scams. Spotted one yourself? You can report it to the FTC here.) Trust your instinct about suspicious activity and learn to identify fraudulent practices. By following these 10 tips, you can outsmart even the most cunning scammers and shield yourself from financial harm. First Security Bank is a Member FDIC, Equal Housing Lender.