According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, scammers have adapted their ways to take advantage of the current pandemic. These scams target consumers by offering fake vaccines and COVID tests, asking for donations to fake charities or nonexistent “persons in need,” and targeting Social Security benefits. In light of these scams and other threats to your financial security, you can take a few steps to prevent yourself from falling victim.
Never Give Your Personal Info to Someone Over the Phone
When it comes to preventing identity theft, a great general rule is to never give someone your info over the phone without verifying who they are first. This is especially true if they call you. Government entities, including the IRS and the Social Security Administration, will never call you asking for your info. Should you need to contact them, look for their contact info on their verified websites (ending in .gov). If you receive a call from an unknown number telling you there is a problem with your taxes or Social Security benefits, do yourself a favor and hang up.
Use Secure Passwords
The more complex your passwords are, the better. It’s also a good idea not to use personal information in your passwords – particularly if it’s information that’s publicly available (such as your phone number, address, where you went to school, or your birthday). Furthermore, try not to post personal information about yourself that could be used to hack into your accounts on social media. Change your passwords periodically (once a year at a minimum) and never share them with anyone. When possible, turn on multi-factor authentication, which requires you to verify your sign-in with a second device.
Be Cautious of Strange Emails
If you receive an email that looks strange or is from an unknown sender, don’t click on any links, download any attachments, or download pictures. Scammers can embed code into links, attachments, and images that allow them to gain access to your computer. If you receive a strange email, you should report it as spam to your email provider.
Utilize Antivirus Software
If possible, install credible antiviral software on your devices and use a VPN whenever you’re using unsecured public Wifi. Software like Norton and McAfee have features that can help you stay vigilant while surfing the web and when downloading items on your computer.
For more information on these scams and others like them as well as tips on how to protect yourself, check out the CFPB's website.