My mom received a call a few months ago saying she had to update the version of Microsoft Windows she was using; that security risks with the current version could be fixed if she simply provided her credit card number. Thank God she didn’t.
ID Theft is a real concern. With the recent Microsoft Ransomware alert in the news, we must all be vigilant, including the most vulnerable. To get to your money these fraudsters need information about you, including: social security numbers, passports, driver’s licenses, and similar identifying information. Also, your financial accounts and credit card numbers, your computers or devices passwords, and details about your life including family names, dates of birth, addresses, emails, etc.
What you should do:
Avoid interactions with strangers, especially when they try to create fear to make you act (my mother’s example). Avoid solicitations by phone, email or even in person. If the offer is “too good to be true” it likely is.
When using email, always be aware of and avoid Phishing emails trying to trick you into clicking on bad links or opening infected attachments, and Malware, which infects your device with viruses and security breaches. Avoid Ransomware too, which locks down your device until you pay a fee. Do not click on any attachments or links within emails unless you are certain of the source.
Avoid anyone who contacts you out of the blue claiming to represent a tax agency, your financial or legal firm, or even the police if they demand money or personal information. The IRS only communicates through U.S. mail.
Lastly, if you ever have the feeling of being pressured or tricked in any way – STOP. If you sense the situation may not be legitimate hang up, close the door or delete the email. Then call a trusted family member or friend for help.
Steps you should take:
Load virus protection on your computer and keep it current!
Create strong passwords and periodically change them.
Use two-step verification or fingerprint access whenever available possible.
Privatize your social media profiles and activities so only those you allow in can see them.
Do not access any financial or shopping sites when using public WiFi.
Monitor your credit reports for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Consider a credit freeze if you rarely apply for loans.
Secure important items at home or work - lock your desk, files, car, important documents.
Buy a shredder and use it!
If you are ever in doubt – contact your bank or financial institution to get validation. Get them involved if there is an issue and contact authorities to report potentially criminal acts - the IRS for tax fraud and the FTC for everything else.
Life’s a journey – navigate it wisely!