These days, it is critical to safeguard your sensitive personal information. Scammers, fraudsters, and other bad actors have developed increasingly sophisticated tactics to obtain your private data and access your finances or steal your identity. Here are a few best practices to better protect yourself against these threats.
Learn to spot a scam:
Knowledge is power when protecting yourself, your loved ones, and your finances against frauds and scams.
Scams often happen through phone calls, emails, and even your mailbox.
- Phone Scams – If someone calls you claiming to be a utility company, your bank, or a government agency and they are requesting sensitive information to “verify” you, it is likely a deceitful attempt to get said information that can be used for nefarious purposes.
- Email Scams – Phishing scams are emails that impersonate trusted sources such as your bank, service providers, mortgage companies, etc., trying to obtain your personal information. Using this information, they can open new accounts in your name or take over your existing accounts. Emails also can be used as a virtual “Trojan Horse” to install malicious code meant to obtain usernames and password information that are saved on your devices. Do not open any attachments or click any links until you are sure that the email is from a legitimate source.
- Mail Fraud – Con artists can send convincing–looking letters pretending to be your financial institution. These letters may be labeled “IMMEDIATE ACTION REQUIRED” and “TIME-SENSITIVE” regarding your account and instructing you to act. Scammers use this to garner your trust and gather your information; all the while, you give it willingly believing that you are acting responsibly.
Below is a list of common types of strategies that scammers use:
- Charity Scams – Scammers know that exploiting people’s kindness is a powerful strategy to acquire the information that they want. Always verify the charity before choosing to give.
- Debt Collection, Debt Settlement, & Debt Relief Scams – A caller may pose as a debt collector pressuring you to pay on a debt that you either already paid or do not owe. Or someone reaches out via phone/email wanting to renegotiate, settle, or update the terms of a debt. Hang up immediately and verify if the debt is legitimate before continuing.
- Grandparent Scams – You may receive a call from someone pretending to be a grandchild or relative asking for immediate funds due to a desperate situation (e.g., a grandchild asking for money to get out of jail). Hang up and call that person at their known number to confirm if that was truly them or an impersonator.
- Lottery/Prize Scam – Scammers may call or email you claiming that you won a prize. They can instruct you to, “Click this link”, to claim it. Do not provide any personal information over the phone or make payments to obtain the prize. Do not click any links in any emails that appear to be malicious in nature.
Now that we are aware of a few common schemes, what can you do?
- Review Your Accounts Regularly – Monitor your bank account and credit card activity regularly to assure that no unauthorized purchases or fraudulent charges were made.
- Use Online Transactions Cautiously– Avoid using publicly provided Wi-Fi (e.g., airport, café, etc.) Ensure that the wireless connection that you are connected to is secure when making online purchases. Hackers can access your information through publicly available Wi-Fi to steal sensitive information to commit identity theft.
- Contact Financial Institutions Directly – If you receive a call or a letter in the mail from your banking institution requesting sensitive information, always verify if the inquiry is from a legitimate source. It is best practice to call the numbers listed from a financial firm’s official website or located on the back of your credit or debit cards.
- Pull Your Credit Report – It is a good habit to annually review your three credit reports: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. A quick glance at your reports will let you confirm if the information is accurate or if there are any discrepancies that need to be investigated.
- Properly Dispose of your Paper Documents – Shred any documents with sensitive information. This could include but is not limited to: Bank Statements that contain account numbers, old tax documents, utility bills, or any other documents with important information. Unscrupulous individuals do not mind “dumpster diving” if it means that they can get the information needed to steal your identity.
If you ever suspect (or confirm with another entity) a security breach, do not hesitate to reach out to your Wealth Advisor. This will allow us to exercise caution and scrutinize any activities related to your accounts while helping you navigate the situation. At Opes, we are committed to your safety and security and will continue to be steadfast in our promise to provide you with the highest quality service.
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