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Don’t take the bait: Tips to avoid cyber scams

February 24, 2020

By Carter Elliott, director of financial security

The internet makes many everyday tasks such as shopping and banking faster and more convenient, but the downside to this convenience is that cyber scams are on the rise according to Cybercrime Magazine. In this age of ubiquitous social media, your personal information may be floating throughout “the cloud.” Tech-savvy scammers are getting more sophisticated in their efforts to steal your identity and/or your personal information via online channels.

Phishing is when a scammer uses fake emails, text messages or websites to try to steal personal information (credit card numbers, bank account numbers, account passwords, etc.). Phishing emails and text messages may look like they’re from a company you know or trust, such as your bank or an online store; however, they often try to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment by indicating:

  • There has been suspicious activity or log-in attempts on your account.
  • There’s a problem with your account or payment information.
  • You must confirm some personal information.
  • You need to click a link to make a payment.

Once you click on the link, you have just given the scammer access to your personal information.

The good news is there are ways you can safeguard against these cyber scams. Here are some tips to avoid cyber scams:

  • Do not respond to unsolicited emails, telephone or text messages.

Do not click on any included links or attachments which may contain a virus that can harm your computer. If a legitimate-looking company logo is included, but you don’t understand the reason for the email, call the company directly using the phone number listed on the company website, not the number listed in the email or text.

  • Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication.

If supported, you can set up your financial accounts to require your password and an additional piece of information such as a randomly generated code sent to your phone when you log in. This protects your account even when your password has been stolen.

  • Don’t use the same passwords for multiple accounts.

The best practice is to use complex passwords and avoid using names, dates or common words.

Credit freezes prevent someone from applying for and getting approval for a credit account or utility services in your name.

We all need to be vigilant in protecting our identity and personal information. To learn more do’s and don’ts, as well as what to do in the event you are a victim of a scam, check out the federal government website on frauds and scams usa.gov/scams-and-frauds.