Today, more than ever before, security is a critical issue for virtually every organization and individual. Health, safety, and security are top concerns, and responding to these evolving issues is key to being proactive, prepared, and protected.
With awareness, effort, and the time it will take to read this blog, you can improve your cybersecurity and be ready to fight back against scammers to save your hard-earned money and precious time.
As we start the new year, we should quickly assess our personal cybersecurity and review the top scams raking in billions of dollars each year. Fraud and scams are at an all-time high, and if the global trend continues, we will see another year of a surge in cybercrime and scams, with people losing money and time to phishing attacks, imposter scams, and romance scams.
The best way to fight back and protect your resources is by understanding the red flags associated with scams and fraud that ultimately make their way into our lives and home by text, email, and phone calls. The first step is understanding your physical reactions to email and phone communications and then knowing what defines each scam. Physical responses may include fear, anxiety, shock, disbelief, and feeling sick. My top four signs individuals should be on the lookout for is if someone is using pressure, or emotions, want you to give money, or if they want you to keep the request a secret.
Scams to know:
Phishing - Thieves may send unsolicited emails or intriguing clickbait, pretending to be a financial institution or company, asking you to click a link for an unbelievable fabulous deal, update or confirm your personal or login information. The link may direct the user to a “spoof” website that looks legitimate or introduce malware on your device to steal your information.
Imposter scams – Scammers impersonate state, county, and municipal law enforcement, and tax collection agencies to get you to share sensitive personal information. Billions of dollars have been lost to DEA, FBI, and IRS imposter scams. Ignore any such calls and emails. Real IRS, DEA, and FBI agencies do business by mail and won’t ask you for passwords or bank account or credit card info. They also won’t threaten to call the police to have you arrested or ask you to pay with gift cards, keep a secret, or ask you to wire transfer money.
Romance scams - Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust—often meeting on Facebook, dating apps, and other social media platforms. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and steal from the victim. They are sometimes asking the target to invest in cryptocurrency. The scammer aims to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust. Scammers may even propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money or inappropriate pictures to use for sextortion.
The criminals who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do and will seem genuine, caring, and believable. They are con artists, and billions of dollars are lost each year, leaving a path of destruction for the victims filled with sadness, embarrassment, and empty bank accounts. Tips to avoid this type of scam: Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with excuses for why they can’t. Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone. Beware if the individual requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to sextort and blackmail you. As a rule of thumb, only take pictures you wouldn’t mind being posted to all your friends online.
Finally, be sure to have a plan in place and have a trusted friend or family member to talk with. If you think you have been compromised or scammed, call the FTC hotline to speak with someone who can help with the next steps 1-877-382-4357 or 1-877-FTC-Help. Early Reporting, we encourage people to report suspicious emails, texts, and phone calls to law enforcement and the FTC.
Monitor your accounts:
Please keep track of transactions on your accounts by logging into your credit card or financial institution’s websites, where you can view your activity as it is posted. Have alerts set up for credit card purchases and banking. Have the fraud department phone number for each of your credit cards and banking intuition handy to call immediately if an unrecognizable charge or purchase is identified.
Protect your personal information:
Do not leave your purse, wallet, checkbook, or any other forms of identification in your car or out in the open where it can be stolen. Shred or tear up any documents containing banking or credit information, especially pre-approved credit offers, before you throw them away. You can opt-out of pre-approved credit offers. Equifax Information Services LLC maintains your credit file and provides information to certain customers, including credit card companies and lenders, so that they may offer pre-approved offers to consumers as permitted by the FCRA. If you prefer not to receive such offers, visit www.optoutprescreen.com or call (888) 5-OPT-OUT (or 888-567-8688).
Computer Protection Tips:
Update your computer operating system regularly.
Keep your browser current with the latest security updates.
Use updated anti-virus software. Consider using more than one to ensure the most thorough scan.
Change your passwords regularly to help prevent unauthorized access.
Close pop-up ads by clicking on the “X” instead of clicking within the advertisement itself.
Stay safe online and offline with these quick and easy tips. Remember, you are the first line of defense to prevent scams, so you don’t lose your hard-earned money, and precious time. Here’s to a fantastic 2023!