June 14, 2018 – Don’t think for a second that you are safe from the criminals who are trying to separate you from your money. There are tens of thousands of these folks who spend all day, every day, coming up with clever ways to trick you. Here are just a few tips to help keep them at bay.
1. Never, ever give out private information like credit card, SSAN, or bank account numbers to someone calling you. No reputable outfit will ask you for it. The IRS doesn’t call people, they send letters. If you “won” something, someone tells you your grandson needs bail money, or that you missed jury duty, hang up. They are trying to trick you. No credit card company or bank will ask for your credit card or account number.
2. Be very cautious about giving out too much information over the phone, even if you are the one calling out. Here is how your editor got tricked last week. We called our credit card company about a declined purchase attempt. Unfortunately we mis-dialed by one number. The foreign sounding phone rep seemed to need more details about my account, and we should have been much more suspicious. In a hurry and ignoring our instincts, we helpfully provided those. Deep into the conversation it just didn’t feel right and we hung up. Realizing we had just given up the store, we dialed the right number, where the fraud department informed us we would have to cancel the card. We’ve spent a lot of time changing online credit card numbers since!
3. Do not open any attachment to an email. This is how many election and other government officials were hacked by the Russians. Now other criminals are perfecting this scam. The attachment can take over your computer and compromise you and everyone on your address list. Of course you can open documents if you are expecting them, AND they come from a trusted source. But the problem is that if one of your friends has been hacked, attachments from them might be dangerous. When in doubt – DO NOT OPEN! Apple has some good tips about safely opening attachments.
4. Get virus protection for your computer. These inexpensive tools will provide warnings if you venture onto a site that is trying to trick you. You do need to follow its warnings too. If a box pops up on your computer with a warning that you need to call or go somewhere to fix a problem with your computer – ignore it! Do not click on it or call the number.
5. Delete your cookies and browsing history every few weeks. Ever wonder why if you are shopping for shoes why you keep seeing ads for shoes. That is because your computer is showing everything about your past computer use to each new site you visit. Getting rid of your cookies will delete any personal info, and have the benefit of speeding up your computer. How to delete cookies differs by browser and type of computer – on Apple you go to “History” and click on “Clear Recent History”.
Comments? Have you been scammed? Please share your experiences and what you learned in the Comments section below.