Financial scams come in many varieties, but most have one end goal - getting their hands on your money. Last year, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 2.5 million scam reports. How can you keep your information and money more secure?
Get notified when your cards are used in an unusual location or over a certain dollar amount. You may be able to set up alerts for your checking and savings accounts letting you know when a transfer or debit card purchase has taken place.
If you see something unusual, notify your bank, credit union or credit card provider immediately. If you report fraudulent transactions within certain timeframes, your financial institution may be able to help you recoup some of the stolen costs or charges.
Check statements and activity
Review all monthly billing statements and confirm the purchases listed are really yours. Again, make sure you let your bank know if they don’t belong to you so that things can be cleared up quickly.
Protect your passwords
Names of family members or your street can be easy for internet thieves to guess. Instead, use long, complicated passwords or pass phrases. For extra security, use a variety of passwords for your different online services, that way if one of your passwords is guessed all of your information isn’t compromised.
Look for the "s"
Before you shop, look at the address bar on the website. Does it start with “https”? The “s” stands for secure and should appear on all web pages that require you to disclose your information. As a general rule, don’t input any information if there’s no “s” displayed.
Use shared computers and public Wi-Fi with caution
Shared computers and public Wi-Fi make it easier for thieves to steal your information. Many public Wi-Fi connections don’t encrypt data; so if you’re entering sensitive information into your computer, consider doing that at work or at home.
Watch for fake websites
One scam includes cyber criminals setting up fake domain names that are just a letter or two off from public sites and even (illegally) using legitimate company’s logos to try to fool people.
Stick to established and reputable online stores
You just found a great new iPhone, but you’ve never heard of the website that’s selling the phone. What do you do? Always ask around and do your research before buying. The Better Business Bureau’s easy online search function
is a helpful starting point. When in doubt, you know the motto, “If it sounds too good to be true…”
Use caution with unknown numbers
Many financial and identity thieves will call unsuspecting victims claiming to a person of authority, like an IRS agent or member of law enforcement. These “officials” will often inform you that you owe money in taxes or have an infraction that you need to pay for.
Then, they’ll you ask for your credit card number or bank account information. Unfortunately, this is likely a scam. Real tax and law officials rarely – if ever – reach out to people by phone when making initial contact. IRS, or tax, agents typically send mailed notifications; traffic or violations are often delivered via mail too.
If you do get an unsolicited call – or a call that you didn’t request or weren’t expecting – and the caller asks for your personal information, like your Social Security number or bank account information, you should hang up and
contact your local tax office or bank to see if the call is legitimate.
Steer clear of sweepstakes
If you receive an offer by mail, phone or email letting you know you’ve won a car, computer, vacation home, or special lottery, then proceed with caution. Often these “surprise sweepstakes” notices will also ask you to pay a processing or insurance fee in order to increase your chances of winning or to collect your prize. These types of sweepstakes are almost always a scam.