Cyber Scams - Beware & Be Safe!
This is a time where people are encouraged to stay informed or are working from home for the very first time, and the amount of screen-time online has increased because of it. Cyber criminals are working overtime to take advantage of the situation. Keeping your guard up now is more important than ever before. Knowing what you should and should not be doing is critical.
Consider the following information to help keep you and your personal information safe.
- Don’t reveal personal or financial information in an email. This seems obvious, but Scammers use authentic looking fake emails or texts to lure you to share valuable personal information or get you to follow a link within an email. This is called a phishing email and used to get access to your computer or network. If you click on a link within the email, they can install ransomware or programs that can lock you out of your data. They often use familiar company names or pretend to be someone you know. The World Health Organization had this email example of a real-world scam where phishers pretended to be them. Notice the incorrectly spelled words? Would you have clicked to learn the safety measures?
If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Contact them using information from outside of the email, such as an account statement, or searching the company name and phone number from your browser.
- Pay attention to a website’s URL. Malicious websites can often look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL will often use a variation in spelling or a different domain such as .net versus .com.
- Keep all devices up to date. By keeping all software on internet connected devices up to date (including smartphones, PCs, tablets and laptops) you can reduce the risk of infection from malware.
Sadly, there are even dishonest people looking for ways to capitalize on the Coronavirus, such as offers for bogus vaccinations and home test kits. Don’t fall for it!
- Ignore online offers trying to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the Coronavirus (COVID-19). At this time there are no FDA authorized vaccinations or home test kits. The FTC and FDA have jointly issued warning letters to sellers of unapproved and misbranded products claiming they can treat or prevent the disease.
- Undelivered goods. There are many online sellers claiming to have in-demand products like cleaning, household and health or medical supplies. Beware of companies that will have you place an order, pay for it and then never send what you ordered. Before ordering, check out the seller online, including reviews and complaints. If everything checks out, pay by credit card and keep a record of your transaction.
What about those pesky robocalls?
- Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers may be using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. You may be duped into pressing a number thinking it will remove you from their call list, when in fact it might lead to more robocalls.
Possibly the saddest scam of all is preying on the generosity of those individuals wanting to help those less fortunate during a time of need.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations. If someone wants a donation in cash, gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it. When a major health event like the Coronavirus happens, people often look for ways to help, but Scammers use the same events to take advantage of your generosity. It pays to do some research before giving. Money lost to a bogus charity, is less money to help those truly in need. Research the organization you are considering, and never ever pay by gift card or wire transfer. When you give, pay safely by credit card.
- Protect yourself by checking your accounts often. This may be the easiest and most overlooked defense. We look for red flags (such as addresses that don’t match your account information - like on a new credit card application for example), but the more you police your own accounts, the safer you will be.
We hope you feel more aware and prepared to recognize the many ways that Scammers are trying to get your money, personal information, account numbers, log-in IDs or passwords; and when in doubt, call 715-365-4800 to report any suspicious activity.