The greatest financial danger of our age is fraud, either by mail, social media, over the phone or in person. Most common fraud is identity theft and according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, financial losses caused by it totaled $24.7 billion in 2012. And the danger does not stop here, as scammers have become more creative and sophisticated over the years, and they target people of all backgrounds and ages. That does not mean you cannot protect yourself against them. There are several things you can do that will help you and your money stay safe.
1. Don’t offer anyone control over your money or your assets.
You are at risk not just from strangers, but also from people who are close to you. The fact that 90% of all reported elder abuse is committed by the person’s family members should serve as a warning. Some of the common strategies that abusers use are depleting a joint checking account, direct theft, or making false promises of providing care in exchange for property or money.
2. Keep your personal information confidential.
Unless you were you the caller, never give credit card, banking, Social Security, or other important personal information over the phone. Some people may call you claiming to be an official representative of an established company, but you cannot check their true identity over the phone so to stay safe, demand them official written requests. Disclosing personal information over the Internet is equally unsafe.
3. Don’t sign anything before doing your research.
Be wary of unsolicited offers and ask for advice whenever you are unsure about a purchase. Doing a thorough research can save you a lot of problems and headaches later. Especially if you have to sign a contract, reading carefully all the papers and doing some individual research is mandatory. Otherwise, if you hurry up to sign without reading every line, you may agree to undesirable terms and conditions. Make sure you understood terms of cancellation as well and don’t let others pressure you into taking fast decisions.
4.Stay connected and involved.
Frauds usually target people who are vulnerable because they live alone and don’t have regular contact with family members, friends, or neighbors. Social isolation is one of the most prominent risk factors when it comes to fraud, so it’s best to stay involved in the community and keep in touch with as many people as possible. They can help you sort dubious offers from genuine ones and add a new perspective to your research about a company, product, or service.
5. Be wary of offers that sound unbelievably good.
Some people may present you with offers and opportunities that seem too good to be true. You may receive a call about a prize you’ve just won or a high-profit, no-risk opportunity that you need to grab as soon as possible. These calls usually come with the claim of paying some deposit or packaging for your fake prize. Take your time to think before sending money and remember that telemarketing call frauds follow a script with catchy phrases especially to deceive you.
6. Don’t be intimidated.
One of the strong tactics of those who want to deceive you is to exert high pressure on you. Scammers are usually well trained in manipulating emotions and in dismissing your doubts. They will probably hurry you up so you don’t have time to analyze the transaction or the offer. Being aware of the selling techniques that scammers use will help you recognize them and prepare a defense. It is your right to say no, no matter how much emotional or social pressure they use.
7. Don’t sign documents you don’t understand.
Whenever you are presented with a contract or another type of document and you don’t really understand the scope of the terms, it is best not to rush to sign it. Most of us are not lawyers and there may be traps hidden behind the seemingly official language. Ask your attorney to help you make sense of any questionable or obscure document.
8. Be extra cautious when shopping online.
Although online shopping is very convenient, make sure to use services from reliable companies, preferably from those which have positive feedback. Don’t disclose your credit card information if you are not absolutely convinced that the platform you are using is safely encrypted. Online transactions don’t always offer the same protection as other transaction methods and very often, if something goes wrong, you will not get your money back.
9. Choose strong passwords and PINS for your accounts.
For regular users of the Internet, cracking passwords seems impossible, but scammers have special software that can steal your passwords in just a few seconds if you click unsafe links or choose weak passwords. Even people who know you may try to guess your passwords or PINS using your personal information. The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to choose strong passwords using a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and update them regularly. Don’t use an obvious number for your PINS, such as your birth year.
10. Protect your devices.
Most probably, your computers, smartphones, and tablets hold up sensitive personal information, especially if you used your credit cards for online transactions. Besides using password protection, you should also update your security software regularly, back up your content, and don’t allow remote access. It is not safe to connect your devices to public Wi-Fi hotspots for online banking or online shopping.
11. Order credit reports.
It is essential to check your financial statements regularly in order to spot unauthorized activity. However, if you become victim of identity theft and someone is using your personal data to take out a loan or to ask for a credit card, this information will not be evident in your financial statements. Only by ordering credit records you can be totally sure that there’s no suspicious activity on your account.
12. Shred sensitive documents.
Throwing away receipts, bank statements, old tax returns or other sensitive documents with your credit card number makes you vulnerable to identity theft. A good way to protect yourself is to invest in a paper shredder and use it for all documents that include personal information, even if it’s just your phone number or email address.
13. Review your privacy settings on social media.
Social media sites have made life easier for scammers since many people share personal information without protecting themselves with proper privacy settings. Be careful who you connect with and choose the audience of your social media wisely. With your personal information and your pictures, scammers can easily target you for identity theft. Don’t forget to report any suspicious behavior.