It’s no exaggeration to say that scams are everywhere. Whether you’re receiving a call, checking email, using social media or shopping online, you’re potentially at risk for identity theft. Here’s how to thwart attempts to steal your personal information, your money or both.
Scams can contain the following:
- Alarmist messages and threats of account closures.
- Family or friends in duress and in need of immediate cash. Please call the requesting party on a phone number you know to be correct and to verify their request. It is quite possible their email has been compromised.
- Claims of business contact theft while traveling overseas or supposedly urgent business matters. Oftentimes the sender's email address will appear to be correct.
- Promises of money for little or no effort. Cybercriminals will often offer to send fraudulent cashier’s checks or money orders in exchange for a small processing or handling fee, promising to let you pocket the difference.
- Deals that sound too good to be true.
- Requests to donate to a charitable organization after a disaster that has been in the news.
- Cloning of popular websites or email. Scam artists use graphics in email that appear to be connected to legitimate websites of well-known companies, but take you to scam sites, or open legitimate-looking pop-up windows.
- Links shown in email don’t match the actual link. If you see a link in a suspicious email message, don't click on it. Rest your mouse on the link to see if the address matches the link that was typed in the message.
- Spelling and bad grammar. Professional companies or organizations usually proofread communications and email before sending them out. If you notice mistakes in an email, it may be a scam.
- Rogue security software. Scareware or ransomware is software that appears to be beneficial from a security perspective but attempts to lure you into participating in a scam. It may also claim to detect illegal activity you were involved with and ask for payment to remove purportedly illegal items or demand payment to avoid legal or criminal repercussions.
What to do if you think you've been scammed
If you suspect that you fell victim to a phishing scam, take these steps to minimize any damage and protect your personal and financial information.
- Run a full antivirus/anti-malware scan of all your computers and laptops. Complete this step before changing any passwords or PINs for online accounts.
- Install Trusteer Rapport on all your computers and laptops you use to conduct any online transactions — this will remove financial malware or prevent it from operating.
- Change the passwords or PINs on all accounts that may be compromised, including online bank accounts, online shopping accounts and email accounts.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit reports. Check with your bank or financial advisor if you aren't sure how to do this.
- Contact your bank or the online merchant directly. Do not follow links in fraudulent email messages.
- If you know of any accounts that were accessed or opened fraudulently, close those accounts.
- Routinely review your monthly bank and credit card statements for unexplained charges or inquiries you didn't initiate.
Additional information and references
- Snopes – Top Scams: http://www.snopes.com/fraud/topscams.asp
- eBay Security Center: https://pages.ebay.com/securitycenter/protect_your_information.html
- Craigslist – Avoiding Scams: http://www.craigslist.org/about/scams
- FBI – Scams and Safety: http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/e-scams
- Trusteer Rapport: http://learn.firstrepublic.com/trusteer