With another season of online holiday shopping around the corner, it’s a good time to review ways to protect yourself from online scammers.
While many people think identity theft will never happen to them, cases of online fraud have more than doubled in recent years, according to the Federal Trade Commission. And in 2020, Washington and Oregon ranked #1 and #8 in the nation, respectively, for imposter scams—a ruse in which victims are convinced to send scammers money.
No matter how it transpires, identity theft is a serious crime. But you can fight back with the following measures to reduce your chances of becoming the next victim.
Measures to Help Prevent Identity Theft
Freeze your credit. Lock down access to your credit by freezing your credit with each of the three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). You can temporarily lift credit freezes when needed, such as when you apply for credit with a bank. Consider putting a freeze on your dependent children’s accounts, as well.
Actively monitor accounts. Be on the lookout for suspicious activity when reviewing financial accounts and monthly statements. If there are transactions you do not recognize, or if your paper statements do not arrive on time, contact your bank immediately.
Maintain password hygiene. Use complex and unique passwords for each account you create. A best practice is to use a long phrase that is easy to remember. Or consider using a password management service, such as LastPass or 1Password, which can generate and maintain secure passwords.
Don’t answer every call. If you don’t recognize a caller ID, let the call go to voicemail. A legitimate caller will introduce themselves, their reason for calling, and how to best reach them.
Click with caution. A special type of scam, called “phishing,” occurs when a fraudster replicates an email that appears the same as what you might receive from your bank or retailer. These messages are usually urgent, warning you an account has been compromised or a password needs updating. Instead of clicking in the email, log into your account directly using your web browser to review notices and transactions.
Use two-factor authentication. You’re probably familiar with e-commerce and banking websites that won’t let you log in until you enter a special code sent to you via text. This is an extra layer of security to ensure you alone can access your accounts. Although it may be a hassle to take this extra step, two-factor authentication is very effective at preventing unauthorized access. Enable this feature whenever it’s available.
Sidestep the Scammers
Fraudsters are incredibly creative and their tactics change constantly.
From robocalls about extended warranties on your car to phishing emails designed to mimic those from your trusted bank, it’s easier than ever to fall victim to their traps.
To sidestep those traps, stay aware, stay informed, be cautious, and take preventive steps.