Start a New Year by Committing to Reduce Your Vulnerability to Fraud
December 31, 2020
AARP Bulletin1 published several steps we can all take to protect ourselves from fraud in 2021. (Considering we’re referencing AARP, you may be amused by one of their tips.)
- Improve your password protection: Many companies, financial and otherwise, now offer ‘dual-factor authentication.’ That means you sign-in to your account using your ID and password (Factor 1) and are then texted or emailed a unique digital code (Factor 2) as the last step for each time you log-in. While it’s an extra step, “…it’s a veritable fortress of extra security.”
- Protect your mail: The U.S. Postal Service provides a FREE service called Informed Delivery “…in which the agency sends, via email, images of letter-sized mail expected to be delivered to you soon.” If you have any concerns about thieves stealing personal information from your mailbox, this is a great tool to help prevent that. (InformedDelivery.usps.com)
- Check your credit report: This is an oldie but goodie that we’ve written about on numerous occasions. Due to the pandemic, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion “..are offering free weekly online reports through April 2021.” By viewing your credit reports, you should be able to spot fraud and also repair any errors. (AnnualCreditReport.com)
- Filter your phone calls: If you enter all of your trusted contacts into your smartphone, there will be no need to answer it if your caller ID doesn’t recognize a caller. (Don’t worry; they’ll leave a message if it’s important.) Use call-blocking apps on your smart and home phones to help reduce the amount of spam.
- Manage your emails: Merely deleting junk emails won’t stop more from going into your inbox. Instead, use tools available through your email provider such as “block sender” to start routing junk to your trash folder.
- Do a quick Facebook privacy checkup: “Click the downward arrow button in the upper right corner of your Facebook page. Then click on Settings & Privacy and Privacy Checkup. This easy-to-use wizard will guide you through settings that will enable you to lock your profile so that only your friends can see it – and scammers will be locked out.”
- Research unfamiliar e-retailers: Before purchasing from an online retailer you’ve never purchased from, “…do a web search for the company’s name, followed by the words ‘scam,’ ‘fraud’ and ‘complaints’ to get a fast read on its veracity. Then read other user reviews.”
- Say no to gift cards: “Pre-paid gift cards have become one of the fastest-growing requested forms of payment from criminals, and they are virtually untraceable…Gift cards should only be purchased for family and friends.”
- Don’t send nudes! (Repeat; this is from the AARP.): Until reading this, we weren’t aware that “…there has been a huge increase in extortion scammers who look for people on dating apps. After a few online conversations, when your defenses are down, they ask for nude pics.” And then the extortion for money begins: “Pay me now, or I’ll post them.”
- Stop, breathe, ask: Scammers work best when their victims are under pressure and rushed to make a decision. “Never let strangers force you into fast decisions. Pause, calm yourself, and think clearly and critically.” If in doubt, take a moment to call a friend, family member, or us.l
1 Nofziger, Amy, and Mark Fetterhoff. “11 Ways to Protect Yourself From Fraud in 2021.” AARP Bulletin, 22 Dec. 2020.