Strategies To Help Foil Scammers

One of my tennis buddies relayed a story where hackers had stolen virtually all his private information necessary to open accounts in his name. They proceeded to open bank accounts and credit card accounts across the country. It was a widespread scam attempt. Fortunately, he caught it before losing any money.

Scammers constantly evolve tactics to steal personal and financial information from unsuspecting victims. To protect yourself, it’s essential to understand the different approaches scammers use and the strategies you can use to foil their schemes.

Getting critical information on existing accounts

Best Defense: Text Alerts. One of the most common tactics scammers use is stealing credit card information or banking details to access existing accounts. Early detection is crucial to minimize damage, so consider setting up text alerts that notify you when your credit card is used, or a check clears your bank above a certain amount. For example, you can set up alerts for credit card charges over $20 and bank transactions over $500. If you receive an alert for a transaction you don’t recognize, contact your card company or bank immediately to freeze the account and have the charge reversed.

Getting critical information to open new accounts

Best Defense: Credit Freeze. Another tactic scammers use is to steal personal information to open new accounts in your name. This can cause the most damage because you may only know that the accounts exist once it’s too late. To protect yourself, visit each of the three credit reporting agencies – TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax – and implement a credit freeze. A credit freeze blocks your account from all credit inquiries indefinitely. You can temporarily lift the credit freeze if you need to allow a credit inquiry. For example, if you need to apply for a loan or credit card, you can find out which credit reporting service the vendor uses and contact the agency and request a temporary lifting of your freeze. This can save you a lot of trouble and headache down the line.

Tricking you into giving access to your computer or a smart device

Best Defense: Never give out personal information to someone you don’t know. Scammers may try to trick you into giving them access to your computer or smart device through phone calls, text messages, or emails. They can use sophisticated social engineering tactics to get you to volunteer critical information or access to your data. Only give out personal information to people you know, and never click on a link you’re not certain is authentic. If you receive an inquiry you’re unsure about, hang up, don’t click, and contact your vendor, bank, or other service providers directly to verify the request.

Here are a few additional strategies you can use to protect yourself from scammers:

  • Use strong and unique passwords for all your accounts. Consider using a password manager to keep track of them.
  • Enable two-factor authentication for all your accounts to add an extra layer of security.
  • Regularly update your software and antivirus programs to protect against the latest threats.
  • Avoid using public Wi-Fi networks, which cybercriminals can easily hack.

Resources to Help You Stay Safe Online

Many resources are available to help you learn more about cybersecurity and protect yourself from scams. The Federal Trade Commission’s website has information on common scams and how to avoid them:

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Stewart-Welch-Financial-Advisor-Birmingham-AL-The-Welch-GroupStewart H. Welch, III, CFP®, AEP, is the founder of THE WELCH GROUP, LLC, which specializes in providing fee-only investment management and financial advice to families throughout the United States. He is the author or co-author of six books, including 50 Rules of SuccessJ.K. Lasser’s New Rules for Estate, Retirement and Tax Planning- 6th Edition (John Wiley & Sons, Inc.); THINK Like a Self-Made Millionaireand 100 Tips for Creating a Champagne Retirement on a Shoestring Budget. For more information, visit The Welch GroupConsult your financial advisor before acting on comments in this article.


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