Nowadays, hackers have become much brighter. Before the digital age, it was much more difficult for thieves to get your private information. Now, it’s much easier with phones, computers, email addresses and more. These scams can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. But there are ways to protect yourself. Use this guide for five ways to protect yourself from scams.
1. Secure Your Passwords
The first step in protecting yourself is to secure your passwords. If a thief can get your passwords, they can access everything. Luckily, there are ways you can protect your passcodes and keep your sensitive information secure. These strategies include:
- Password manager: If technology is available, why not take advantage of it? Password managers are an excellent way to let the software do the hard work of keeping up with your passwords. These programs register every password you create for your accounts. Or you can let it generate one for you. Plus, you can easily use most password managers across your devices.
- Rotate passwords: Nowadays, you need passwords for everything. You may have email addresses, social media accounts, streaming services, banking apps and more. Some people use the same password for them all, but that’s not a wise idea. Create a unique passcode for each account and rotate them every month.
- Multifactor authentication: A terrific way to secure your accounts is with multifactor authentication (MFA). This process requires you to confirm your identity with a second source to log in to your accounts. For example, you may get a text sent to your phone with a unique code. Microsoft Authenticator changes the code every 30 seconds, making it much more challenging for hackers to infiltrate your accounts.
2. Monitor Your Credit
Another way to protect yourself financially is to monitor your credit. Services like Equifax and TransUnion provide excellent credit monitoring to take the hard work out of your hands. Some credit card companies will also monitor your credit activity. If you don’t want to sign up for those services, you can use free credit report websites like AnnualCreditReport.com or Credit Karma.
On most of these websites, you can set up spending alerts. These notifications will quickly alert you to suspicious activity on your credit cards. For example, say you set the spending limit at $100. Credit monitoring services will alert you if someone uses your credit information to make a large purchase. From there, you can freeze your credit cards and let your provider take care of the fraudsters.
3. Be Vigilant of Emails
Emails are a part of many people’s daily routines, whether at home or work. You may comb through 100 emails daily, looking at special discounts or vacation pictures from your aunt and uncle. Regardless, be vigilant of what any email contains and what you click on. Since the pandemic, many criminals have targeted remote workers because they may lack the security infrastructure they would at the office.
Cybercriminals have become much better at emulating real people and companies. Sometimes, it’s tough to tell what’s real and fake. Though, there are some red flags to watch. For example, an email may say you need to update your security information or open an attachment like a PDF. These signs should flash red that the email is from a cyber thief.
Vet every email you get, watching both the sender and the content itself. Sometimes, even your best friend or parent can accidentally send malware links. Since the pandemic, phishing scams have been on the rise. A study found that phishing was the most prominent form of cyber fraud. Use antiviral software if you accidentally click on a bad link.
4. Shred Old Documents
Do you have a pile of old papers sitting around? These stacks have outlived their use. They’re only good for collecting dust and taking up room on your desk. When spring cleaning arrives, you may feel tempted to throw them away, But there are safer ways to ensure your information is secure.
The best strategy is to shred these old papers. Or, if you don’t have a paper shredder, manually cut them with scissors or tear them up with your hands. Regardless, destroying these documents is critical when you’re ready to dispose of them. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests shredding credit card statements and paid bills immediately. Documents like pay stubs and bank statements can wait a year or later.
5. Use a Spam Blocker
How many phone calls do you get that you don’t answer? Most of them are spam, and they can get annoying quickly. It seems like every day, someone is trying to warn you about your car’s warranty expiring. These calls are time wasters. But for some people, it could be a scam conducted over the phone.
Protect yourself by using a spam blocker. You can download an app with this technology, which will vet the phone number to see if it’s a scam. If others have reported the number for spam, it’ll block the call from going through. Use guidelines from the Federal Communications Commission to put your phone number on do-not-call lists to lower the number of spam calls you get.
Protecting Yourself in the Digital Age
Technology can be a fantastic tool to use. Cell phones, computers, tablets and other devices make your life easier. But with these gadgets comes the risk of cyber theft. One mishap can lead to compromised credit cards and bank accounts, costing thousands of dollars. Use these five strategies to reduce the chances you encounter a financial scam.