It seems like every week there‘s a new online or telephone scam being reported. Especially over the past two years during the pandemic.

Despite all of the ways the Internet can help us, we need to remain vigilant as we don’t always know who is on the other side of our screens. Many fraudsters use impersonation tactics to pose as a trusted source to get our money or personal information.

A common ruse targeting individuals is to send an email that looks like it is from a well-known company, encouraging you to log on and perhaps update your billing information. If well-made, the page where you arrive after clicking the email link will look exactly as you would expect, complete with a familiar logo and brand colors. Just that quickly, someone could have your name, address, password, and credit card information.

Computers can also be compromised through viruses, free software, and malicious software embedded on flash drives or phones.

To prevent access to your bank account due to breaches at retailers or service providers, some recommend utilizing a re-loadable debit card for these transactions that limit the amount of money at risk. Consider the difference if a bad guy had access to your debit card that only had $100 available versus gaining access to the debit card tied to your bank account – the day before the mortgage and car payment are due. In many cases, there are ways to reverse the unauthorized charges – but expect some inconvenience while it all gets sorted out.
Online (and sometimes in person), consider carefully which companies really need your personal information.

10 Ways to Protect Against Cyber Fraud and Online Identity Theft are:

1. Be cautious about sharing your personal information online, including your insurance policy number and birth date.

2. Guard your financial information. If you shop, do insurance transactions or banking online, make sure you aren’t saving personal financial information, such as credit card numbers, that someone could easily take.

3. Change your login and passwords regularly, especially if you use a public computer. Make your passwords hard to decipher by using numbers and characters in addition to letters.

4. Ensure that a website is trustworthy before clicking on a link in an email. If you have any doubt that an email is from the institution that it says it’s from, contact the company to confirm that they sent the email. Criminals often use phishing, which uses an official-looking email to direct you to a website that looks legitimate, to steal personal information.

5. Install security software and anti-spyware programs on your computer. Activate your firewall and use anti-virus software. Only download programs from reputable websites that you know are trustworthy.

6. When making an insurance claim, regularly check the payments made by your insurance company on your behalf throughout the process.  Keep an eye out for any unusual activity.

7. Be social media savvy. Set your social media profiles to the private setting and be careful what you post online.

8. Make sure your Wi-Fi network at home is protected. When using public “hot spots,” recognize that the data you share is vulnerable and do not conduct financial transactions, such as obtaining automobile or home insurance, on these networks.

9. Never give personal information over e-mail or phone to someone who has contacted you to ask for it, without authenticating their identity.

10. If you use credit cards or borrow money, it is a good idea to periodically order a credit check on yourself to ensure everything is in order.