Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Scam Alert for Baby Boomers

 "Tis the season to be jolly...."
Yes, and it's also the season when older adults need to be on high alert because scammers are lurking online to prevent us from having a holly, jolly Christmas this year.

Did you know that more than 500 million passwords have been exposed in data breaches.  Yours could have been one of them and you may not even know it unless you have some type of fraud identity protection.  For identity thieves, your passwords open doors to the kinds of things they're looking for---personal information and banking accounts.

Here are some tips on how to stay as financially secure as possible while you're engaging on social media during the holidays (or anytime for that matter).

1.  Now would be a good time to change your passwords, especially if you've had the same one for more than a year.  For some of us, that may mean coming up with several passwords but it's better to be inconvenienced a little bit than to be sorry later on.  And when you're creating a new password, be unique and creative. You should never use your name unless you have characters behind it that don't seem to make any sense.  For example:   It would be easy for someone to figure out Beverly57 because that's my first name and the year I was born.  BUT If I use Beverly577506&!$----that would be pretty hard to decode.  I am also an advocate for writing your password down and keeping it in a safe place.  I know there are many people who say you shouldn't do that but if you are only using your computer inside your home you shouldn't have to worry about someone trying to steal it.

Along those same lines, don't share your password(s) with anyone, especially your children or grandchildren.  There's no reason they should have it.  Let me give you an example:  Let's say you ask your grandchild to order something for you from the Amazon website and you give them the login information. Not only do they order what you asked but later on they decide to order something they want because they still have your password and the attitude is "Oh grandma (grandpa) won't mind because she/he loves me!"  WHATEVER! 

You are not too old that you can't navigate your own way online and if you think you are, then you shouldn't be online anyway.

2.  Do not log into public places with unsecured networks.  Some people love going to coffee shops with their laptops or smartphones and hopping onto some website.  Logging into an unsecured public wifi network gives hackers the opportunity to watch your activity.  Also, talking business on your cell phone in a public place leaves you at risk of someone eavesdropping on your conversation---especially if you are trying to make a purchase and using your credit card/bank account information.  

3. Do not throw away information that contains personal information in a public place.  You may think nothing about throwing that old utility bill that's been in your jacket pocket for months but that bill contains information that could become a good fortune for an identity thief.  The best thing to do with personal information is to shred it.

4.  Now if you get a phone call from someone claiming to represent one of your utility companies or a government agency, don't give them any information until you can verify, for sure, that they are who they say they are.  Ask to call them back via a number posted on their business or government agency website.

Finally, don't fall for the Fake IRS refund scams.  Scam artists have gotten pretty clever in disguising themselves as IRS representatives on the phone and online.  If you get an email from someone claiming to represent the IRS, disregard it and call the IRS directly to see if it is legitimate.  Also, don't wait until the last minute to file your taxes.  Did you know identity thieves will often file fake taxes with stolen information in order to capture tax refunds?  

If you suspect you have become a victim of a scam act quickly.  Contact your creditors and financial institutions about any unauthorized charges or debts and close any compromised accounts.  File a report with your local police and the Federal Trade Commission.  In order to avoid becoming the victim of a scam stay informed and research any communication that seems slightly questionable to you.

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