Why is it when people are vulnerable there always seems to be someone willing to take advantage of them?
The last few months many people have been out of work using home computers to keep up with school, family and, if they are the lucky few who could work from home, their office. Hackers are finding ways to download invasive software, sending fraudulent emails, answer phished phone numbers and make scammed phone calls. It’s dismaying at a time when people should be helping one another, some just take advantage.
Scammers will make you think they are authentic and really just being helpful — maybe they’re offering to help you lower your interest rates, what better time to wave that juicy tidbit in front of folks than when they are short on cash and many really do have the bills piling up. Seniors are especially vulnerable to scammers because they are used to getting contacted from insurance plans, Medicare and Social Security; but NONE of those entities will ask for personal information like social security numbers or passwords.
Then we have the hackers who know enough to download software and steal sensitive information from your computer or even use your own computer to make purchases. Sometimes they call from a “computer company” claiming that your machine is corrupted and they need to fix it; don’t accept a story like that, if there really is a problem you make the contact (in person if possible). If you believe a program is being downloaded, immediately disconnect your computer from the internet completely and DELETE any program that has been downloaded – use the remove/uninstall program feature.
Many financial institutions and some stores who offer credit cards have made provisions to help protect you in the case that someone is fraudulently using your credit to purchase things like e-gift cards or transfer bank funds. Ask about double verification when you sign in to your bank — after entering your log-in and password (never store sensitive passwords on your computer) they will send your mobile phone a text message with a code which you will need to enter before continuing (one method). Be sure to set “alerts” on every bank account or store credit account, this will cause a message to be sent to your phone and/or e-mail as soon as a transaction takes place; you can usually set the limit to be notified (make it LOW).
Don’t be embarrassed IF you do get scammed, almost everyone falls for something shady — report it to the authorities (police, FTC, banks, stores, etc.) immediately. Contact banking institutions to ask if you could STOP transactions from going through (may need to pay a fee). Be sure to keep any correspondence (emails, text messages and the like) and copy phone numbers (although they might not be authentic) related to the scam. Unfortunately if you do lose money, it is NO longer deductible on your tax forms.
Some helpful advice to avoid fraud and scams: