With all the advancements in technology today, you have to be more and more adept at protecting yourself against credit card fraud. Even big name stores like Target and Wal-Mart aren’t safe against hackers looking to steal your credit and debit card information. Facebook isn’t even safe from credit card fraud, because of things like “phishing”, you could click on what looks to be a safe legitimate link asking for your social security number, bank account, or credit card info and bam, you lose everything. You may be wondering, what can I do to protect my financial wellbeing against thieves?
Here are a few tips to avoid fraud and scams:
Be wary of email scams claming to be legitimate websites like Paypal or Bank of America asking you to update your information. Do not click the link in the email. Most secure sites will have a letter “S”, which stands for “secure” after http (ie. https://), to safely and securely access the website or your account. If there’s no “S” after http, DO NOT ENTER YOUR INFORMATION. Open a new window or tab on your web browser and type in the web address that you would normally go to access these websites.
If you do happen to click the link in the email, always make sure to read the address line, because the website itself may look legitimate, but the address line may read something like “http://paypal.topos.uk” or something fishy like that. Make sure you look for specific greetings when receiving emails. Legitimate vendors will not start an email with something like “Dear User” or “Dear Member” unless it is an automated reply for something you have sent yourself.
Real vendors will never ask you for your contact information because they should already have it (ie, your credit card company asking for your credit card information). If you believe you have received a fraudulent email, please forward the entire email—including the header information—to the specific “vendor”. Don’t Send Personal Information Never send personal information through email, either.
Vendors will have secure websites and forms for you to fill this information out. Make sure to avoid emails that look like websites. Scam artists will send these to trick you into entering personal information, whereas legitimate vendors will never ask for your personal information through email. Also, remember not to download attachments sent by “vendors”, as legitimate vendors will never ask you to download an attachment.
A lot of the time this is something like a key logger or a virus designed to steal your information. Always keep your antivirus up to date in case you happen to download one of these attachments. Don’t Answer Personal Questions Avoid answering information on Facebook games, because a lot of the time the questions asked are very similar to your security questions, which can be used to easily get passwords for email, bank accounts, or Paypal accounts.
I’m not saying don’t play Candy Crush or Farmville, but be wary of third party games or surveys asking for information (ie. What year were you born, what colors do you like, what street did you grow up on). Yahoo and other websites get hacked all too often and thieves will have access to your email account, which may have your Paypal, bank account, or other important information stored, so it is important to always cycle your passwords on at least a monthly basis.
Always make sure you create secure passwords that are at least seven characters long containing uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. And never give your password out to anyone. Make sure to keep your password unique for every account you have as scammers can log into all of your accounts if you keep your password the same for everything. Control Your Data Make sure you control physical access to your PC or smart phone; that meaning do what you can do to stop anyone that you don’t want to access your electronics from using them.
Set passwords on PCs and smart phones, and make sure not to save passwords on your computer or phone for websites or leave written notes with password information lying near by. Always make sure to lock your workstation if you have to leave your PC so nobody can access your information without your consent. If you have a smart phone with NFC technology (ie S-Beam from Android), avoid having this turned on constantly, especially in public.
Hackers have figured out how to seize control of your phone using this technology to steal things like credit card information from things like Google Wallet. This is only the tip of the iceberg as technology advances more and more, you have to always keep up to date on standard practices for protecting yourself. To find out more information and keep up to date check FTC security Tips at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0216-protecting-against-credit-card-fraud or the Microsoft security information website at http://www.microsoft.com/security/online-privacy/default.aspx .
Eduardo Dieguez has been in the realm of personal finance and consumer protection for over 3 years. He has contributed his vast knowledge to help create content for Scott D. Owens who serves as a consumer protection attorney out of South Florida.