Online scammers target people of all income levels, ages, and backgrounds across the country. Anyone can fall victim to a scam if theyâ€™re not careful. The reason scammers succeed is that they catch you off guard. Theyâ€™re constantly taking advantage of new services, new products, new technology, and major events to trick people into giving them their personal data or money.
The first step to protect yourself from online scammers
Start by finding out what information about you is available online. You can do this using a screening service like Checkpeople.com. Then, make sure your software is updated, including your apps, browsers, and OS. This will protect them from the latest threats. Make sure you set your software to automatic updates. Scammers and cyber criminals find outdated software easier to break into. If you canâ€™t do it yourself, get your computer checked for malware and viruses regularly.
Delete suspicious attachments
Never open suspicious email attachments or pop-up windows, and donâ€™t click on links you donâ€™t trust. When in doubt, verify the contactâ€™s identity through an online search. If you get a message with contact details, donâ€™t use them.
Do research on people and companies
Take the time to do research if youâ€™re not sure whether a business is legitimate or youâ€™ve just met someone online. If you have a picture of a person, do a Google image search on them. Type their name into Google to see what comes up.
Be wary of remote access requests
If someone calls to tell you your computer asked for remote access, hang up even if it sounds legitimate. A scammer might tell you to turn your computer on to install a free upgrade or get a problem fixed. What theyâ€™ll actually do is infect it with a virus, giving them access to your personal data and passwords.
Use password protection
Always use protected passwords to keep your computer and mobile device safe. Back content up, update security software, and never share access. Avoid using wi-fi hotspots or public computers, and secure your wi-fi with a password.
Keep PINs and passwords safe
Always keep PINs and passwords in a safe place. Choose passwords that are hard to guess and change them on a regular basis. Donâ€™t use common words, dates, or names. Today, most sites ask us to create passwords using a mix of symbols, numbers, and upper and lower case letters. Donâ€™t share your passwords and donâ€™t use the same one for every profile or account. 12 characters are ideal for most users. Your passwords should be at least 10 characters long. You could combine capital letters, symbols, and numbers in the middle of the password.
Never share passwords by email, in texts, or on the phone. Donâ€™t leave any passwords you wrote down in plain sight.
Donâ€™t overshare on social media
Scammers use pictures and personal information to target people with scams or create fake identities, so be very careful about what you share via social networks. Review your security and privacy settings. If youâ€™ve already become the victim of a scam, clicked on spam, or simply feel something is off, report it and take measures to secure your account.
Beware of Super offers
Online shopping is a great convenience, but it comes with some risk. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Donâ€™t agree to pay using an unusual transaction method like cryptocurrencies, gift cards, preloaded debit cards, or iTunes cards. These donâ€™t come with the same level of protection as traditional payment methods. Once you send money, youâ€™ll never get it back. Of course, be wary of requests for money or personal data. Donâ€™t provide online account or credit card details to strangers. Never transfer goods or money to other people.
Unfortunately, online scammers are alive and kicking, and we must always be on the lookout when dealing with unexpected and/or uninvited contacts from businesses or individuals. It doesnâ€™t matter if itâ€™s through social media, by mail, or any other channel. Donâ€™t forget the golden rule: something that looks too good to be true must be just that.
We encouraged you to run a background check on yourself earlier. You might find some information about you that you donâ€™t want out there when you do this. Make an effort to get the site to take it down.