Today scam artists and identity thieves have perfected the art of utilizing mobile phones, internet and email to get to consumers’ bank accounts. Yet more often than not, these same consumers do not understand the dangers and long term implications of a well-executed scam. Anyone can fall prey to a devilishly clever scam; it is not just the less savvy computer user at risk. In order to avoid a long term financial headache, or risk falling victim to scams, several steps you can take to better protect yourself against financial criminals are listed below:
- Keep your password, social security numbers, and personal information to yourself. As simple and obvious as this sounds, identity thieves can and will use this information to apply for credit cards, loans or even access your bank account to commit fraud using your name. Even if an email looks like it is from a legitimate website, under no circumstance should you ever give personal information to any unsolicited text or email. Crooks have been known to impersonate legitimate organizations such as your bank, as well as create their own phony web sites to seem trustworthy. No matter how official the message may sound, a legitimate organization would never solicit account information in an unsecured manner, such as via an unencrypted email or web page.
- Do not open attachments from unsolicited emails or texts. Crooks often use these attachments to install malware (malicious software) on your electronic devices, and could allow for thieves to spy on your online banking sites. If you don’t recognize the sender or if the request is unexpected, play it safe. Don’t click on the attachment.
- Confirm a message’s validity by contacting the sender. If something seems odd about any information you receive, do not hesitate to use the contact information from the sender to directly verify the legitimacy of the email. Or, for guidance on whether a bank or web site is legitimate, you can also call the FDIC at 1-877-275-3342 to protect yourself from con artists.
- Stick with dependable businesses and charities. By doing your research or listening to recommendations from friends and family, you can make sure what you are investing in is in fact what it claims to be. Reviewing websites is also a great tool for evaluating reliable and trustworthy businesses.
- If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. As disappointing as this may be, messages saying you’ve won a prize, been offered a great work-from-home job, or even a low-risk investment with guaranteed returns, are almost always nothing more than scams. Often these fake offers will pressure the recipient to quickly provide personal information or deposit a cash payment. Don’t be fooled by big prizes or impossibly terrific deals, because most likely, they are not real.
- Protect your mail. Some identity thieves go even so low as to steal vital information or credit and debit cards from your US Postal Service mail box. It is imperative that you receive personal information like tax returns, credit card statements, and blank checks through a secured mailbox, and shred any of these documents when throwing them out. Email should also be secured by beefing up your security software.
- Be vigilant about bank statements and credit card bills. By monitoring statements, anything suspicious can be caught in the early stages of processing and stopped. These statements will show all unauthorized withdrawals or spending from bank accounts or credit cards.
You can avoid some dastardly schemes and protect yourself against scams by following these simple guidelines. Remember, to save time, worry, and most important, your hard-earned money:
- do not disclose personal information and numbers
- be aware with whom you are communicating sensitive information, and
- maintain a constant vigilance on your mail and accounts.
For more information about avoiding scams, check out the FDIC’s website.