Fraudsters waste no time in taking advantage of people facing extreme realities, such as a global pandemic. They look for ways to leverage people’s concern, distress, and even goodwill to steal personal and financial information. Now more than ever, it is critical to learn how you can protect yourself and those around you from falling victim to these evil schemers. No need to fret – we have outlined several things you can do to keep your personal information and money safe.
1. Secure your online identity
First things first: to prevent scammers from obtaining personal files and information, take immediate action to safeguard your computer and amp up your online security. The FTC recommends that consumers back up personal data and apply two-factor authentication whenever possible. This preventative action will protect your account even if your password or username is compromised.
2. Beware of texts and emails from unknown senders
With the expectation of relief checks coming from the government, scammers are acting as government agencies, the FDIC, NCUA, or financial institutions to swindle you out of your money. The IRS and other government institutions will not contact you via phone or email to ask you to pay a fee or confirm personal information – IT IS A SCAM.
If you receive an email or text from a source claiming to be a government agency or an expert, chances are they are lying. Do not click a link (if one is provided) or share any personal information within a reply. The best way to stay updated on COVID-19 news is by visiting The State of Montana’s official website, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO) websites not by trusting professed “experts” reaching out via phone or email.
3. Block robocalls
New crisis, old tricks. Scammers are bringing out some of their tried and true schemes including illegal robocalls in order to snag personal information and disrupt your finances. Some of the common themes/identities they are currently using include various charity organizations, WHO, CDC, and the IRS. The FTC urges individuals not to press any buttons as that can lead to additional calls. Instead, hang up immediately and block any phone numbers requesting you share personal information over the phone.
4. Fact check information
In a time of such uncertainty one can cling to any information provided as the truth. Scammers know this and are cooking up ways to spike your interest and drive you to an unsafe site. Be wary of news surrounding this pandemic unless it’s coming from a trusted source, and always fact-check information you read or see.
Crises can spike the urge to give to charities or individuals in need. We are aware of this and so are fraudsters. From social media to emails and texts, you are likely being approached by many organizations seeking help. Do your due diligence and investigate any organizations before you make any kind of monetary donation.
5. Know who you are buying from
Check out the FTC’s guide for online shipping for additional ways you can keep your information secure while surfing the web.
6. Talk to your financial institution
You do not need to navigate your finances alone. If you suspect suspicious activity on your account you can scan your monthly statement and if found, your credit union will work with you to ensure your money is safe and secure.
If you have fallen victim to a scam and your personal information has been compromised, reach out to your credit union immediately for assistance! If you aren’t a credit union member but need financial support, visit www.montanascreditunions.coop and click on the “Join a Credit Union” link to find a branch near you.