October 31, 2016
Just this month, federal authorities have arrested dozens of con artists for pretending to be the IRS and scamming thousands of people out of hundreds of millions of dollars. These scammers called their victims and informed them that unless they immediately paid their balance, they would be arrested by dispatched law enforcement. They told victims that they could not take a check or debit card, but they would remain on the line with them until they withdrew cash from their accounts, purchased gift cards, and gave them those numbers.
This is just one example, but being aware of some of the ways people commit fraud can help you be better prepared to recognize the signs of fraudulent activity and identity theft. The internet makes committing fraud against unwitting victims easier than ever before. But there are ways to help you keep yourself and your hard-earned money safe.
Ways to protect yourself against fraud:
• Change your passwords o It may be tempting to have the same password for everything, or to keep your passwords the same, but this can leave you at risk to having your online accounts hacked. You should change your passwords preferably twice a year, and keep them someplace secure and encrypted if you need to write them down. Try not to use obvious or easy passwords.
• Don’t click on unknown links in emails o Doing this can download malicious viruses onto your computer. You should also update your anti-virus and firewall software to ensure the information stored on your computer is safe.
• Be wary of online retailers o Online shopping makes the holiday season much less stressful, but you still want to be aware of where your money is going. Only shop from trusted online retailers. Keep track of the packages you are receiving to make sure you are not paying for a good that never arrives. Also, try to use a credit card rather than a debit card when shopping online.
• Check your accounts regularly o Check your accounts regularly to ensure there are no unusual transactions. To make it more convenient, download your Goldenwest mobile app. If fraud is occurring, you can catch it early and report it.
• Keep personal information confidential o Don’t give out sensitive information online or over the phone unless you are confident in who you are dealing with. Make sure any personal information you send out online is sent through encrypted emails or websites.
• Put a lock on your phone o This is especially important since many phones will automatically keep you logged in to many of your accounts, which can contain access to your personal information.
• Watch your credit report o You are legally entitled to three free credit reports every year, one from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can go to any of the individual bureau sites, or to annualcreditreport.com to request your free yearly credit report. Look it over for any activity that you don’t recognize. If you see something suspicious, such as an account or a credit card you didn’t open, report it.