Hackers and scammers are out in full force these days. I was a victim and I still can’t believe it. I know how it works. I live on the internet for work. I’ve been around technology for decades! The new scammers are more clever than ever and therefore, more dangerous to your identity. Here are a few things I learned the hard way and some tips to prevent you from being scammed online or your identity hacked.
- Don’t keep everything in your wallet and don’t carry around a list of passwords, your passport, your social security card, or all your credit cards. You don’t need these things on a daily basis.
- Monitor your credit regularly (every couple of weeks). Take advantage of the free credit reports offered by your bank or credit cards (if they offer these). You can also get a free credit report from the three agencies listed below (only free if you have recently had some sort of problem) or subscribe to a service like CreditReport.com that will monitor your credit for you. You can also consider placing a social security number freeze through the credit reporting agencies TransUnion, Experian and Equifax.
- Don’t do autopay for your accounts. Log in to every one of your accounts at least once a month to review activity and pay your bill. Yes, it is a lot more of a hassle but it’s worth the time.
- Shred personal documents before throwing them away. Dumpster diving is a common method of stealing personal information. Shredders are much cheaper!
- Don’t buy anything from someone who called you. If you are actually interested in their product, ask for a number, company name and website address. Look at the website first.
- Do Google searches on any name you are given and type “scam” after the name in the search box. If I would have done this before I let them on my computer, I would not have lost nearly $1000. Their company name came up immediately as a scam operation in a Google search.
- Don’t reveal personal information to unverified sources whether over the phone or the Internet. Do not feel pressured to answer personal questions unless you are positive of the source. Ask to call them back.
- Don’t believe any popups on your computer or mobile phone screen that seem strange or ask you to do something–even call a number. That sounds harmless, but once they get you on the phone, the scam begins.
- Don’t believe it when the popup mentions Windows Defender, Microsoft Certified Support, your Internet provider or cable company, Norton Security (or any other protection software), or any other familiar information. The scammers can easily get this information.
- Help your family seniors; they are a target for scammers.
- If you suspect a problem (or even if you don’t), visit Creditreport.com (part of Experian) or call their toll-free number. Two weeks is enough time for thieves to apply for credit in your name, but generally not enough for new cards to be issued.
- And of course, you must change your passwords often and make them hard. This includes your Internet connection. Don’t use cutsie common terms or names. Don’t use pet names, nicknames, birthdays, movie titles, or anything on your Facebook page or social media accounts. Use two or more words and numbers that make no sense to each other and that only you know.
- If you get scammed–well, be prepared for weeks (or months) of time you will spend fixing things. It is worth your time now to make some behavioral changes and take some precautions.
Been scammed? Report it here.