TIS the seasons of giving … and taking!
It’s important to keep hearts open this time of year, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t beware of scams designed to potentially defraud or disable you financially.
From false advertising designed to take your money, to false news reports designed to incite non-productive emotional responses; from unsolicited phone calls designed to gather personal information or access to your assets, to pop-up boxes on your computer with urgent messages designed to scare you into action and take over your private files… From seniors, to children, inexperienced young adults to savvy online shoppers all need to beware of scams that crop up throughout the year, but especially this time of year, because this is the time of year when scammers double down to take advantage of unsuspecting and kind-hearted individuals. But, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.
- Stay Calm – Not everyone in the world is out to get you. Remember, there are some bad people, but there are a lot more good people in bad situations. If you’re presented with a situation, stay calm, ask questions or seek advice before making any final decisions.
- Arm Yourself With Knowledge – One of the best ways to beware of scams is learn how to avoid a situation altogether, or at the very least, defuse anxiety in a given situation so you can proceed with a calm mind and effectively deal with them if they come up. Resources like Snopes.com, the Better Business Bureau, and AARP offer information and resources to help protect you against false information and possible fraudulent actions.
- Ask Questions – Nothing bad has ever happened by someone asking questions of someone else who’s approached them with claims of riches or worries. So, the next time someone calls you lookin for information or seems to have information about you that trigger you to think… “How would they know that?”, don’t be afraid to ask. If you’re not 100% comfortable with the conversation or answers, it’s okay not to continue that conversation.
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Here are some additional tips to note to help you be better aware of scams.
- If you’re approached online with a pop-up that says “YOU HAVE A VIRUS”, and then encourages you to CLICK to remove the virus, you should toggle out of the screen or close the browser if possible. This type of online scam is usually designed to access your personal information stored on your PC, however, in recent years, it was also used as ‘ransomware‘; which locks your computer files and functions until you pay a hefty fee to the perpetrator.If toggling out of a screen or closing the browser doesn’t work, then shut your computer down altogether. If the pop-up persists after you’ve rebooted your computer, shut it down and take it into your local, trusted computer repair store. It is possible it’s a virus, or it could be a malware scam designed to take control of your computer files or just cause havoc. We also recommend having a good antivirus protection program installed on your computer, but not all are made equal. Even large brand name anti-virus programs can miss something. And, some of those large ones can even hinder performance on your PC, so talk to the professionals and ask for recommendations. And, don’t forget that phone. Many mobile programs that sync between technology can be effected or share virus. And, for you MAC/Apple users who think you are immune, think again. Although you don’t typically face the more common hardware attacks a PC user may encounter, you are not immune to virus injections through infected websites.
- Limit your use of open, free wi-fi networks. These types of connections can be appealing for many reasons for a great many people, from limited internet access without it, to saving money on provider billing by using it rather than limiting network plans. However, these types of connections are not always secure, and those providing the feature cannot be responsible for another malicious user of the account. When using an open wi-fi connection you potentially open your personal data to whoever else has access to it, too. Staying on a secure network when possible will be more safe in the long run, and can often provide more stable connections and speeds. Need access for your laptop? Check out this article by the writers of MakeUseOf.com: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/tethering-use-mobile-internet-pc/.
- Did you receive a call recently from an unknown or un-registered phone number, and the person on the other end is telling you there’s a problem with your account? Or, maybe they told you your computer has virus and you need to install a share application so they can you remove it? Know this -Businesses are required to register their name and phone number for caller ID. So, if the name is not coming up on your caller id, don’t hesitate to call them out on it and just disconnect the call. If they’re asking for personal information don’t feel pressured in giving it out. They have no legal right to ask for your social security number, and shouldn’t be asking about credit card information OR your birthday. If they’re claiming to be a vendor you’re familiar with (like Comcast, your bank or utility company), you can offer to call THEM back using a verified published phone number. Don’t use the number they give you over the phone since it could be a false number rerouted. Finally, NEVER give anyone access to your computer that you didn’t contact yourself directly, and only after you’ve researched the business’s public standing and consumers’ feedback.
For more great tips on how to beware of scams, check out these additional articles and resources.