Is that odd email from someone trying to steal your money? Your personal information? Both? Scammers are more prevalent than ever, and while some scams seem incredibly obvious, some are terrifyingly sophisticated. In August, Consumer Reports published a comprehensive Scam Protection Guide, where you can learn more about the latest scams, including Facebook frauds and QR code scams. Don’t have access or time for the full guide, here are Consumer Reports seven smart security steps:
1. Slow down. Scammers often press you for immediate action. Pause and think through whether what you’re being told is plausible. You can always respond later, through an organization’s official channels—not a mail, text, phone number, social media message, or link sent to you.
2. Share less of your personal info. People on Facebook, Goodreads, and online neighborhood groups don’t need to know your favorite musician, your mother’s maiden name, or your birthday. Such info helps crooks “phish” for possible answers to security questions. Online quizzes can also provide personal info to scammers.
3. Delete old accounts. The more digital accounts you have, the greater the risk of your personal info being stolen or misused. Shut accounts you rarely use and delete the apps.
4. Allow automatic software updates. These ensure that you always have the latest security patches for smartphone, computer, and router operating systems. Allowing them is usually the default setting, so you might not need to do anything.
5. Double up. Multifactor authentication provides an extra layer of security. So if someone steals your bank or email password and tries to use it from an unrecognized device, the account remains sealed until you respond with a second proof of identity (like a one-time code). Scammers may try to get these codes, so never share them over the phone or via text or email.
6. Stick with safe payment methods. Credit cards (and PayPal) offer legal protections not found with other methods. With gift cards, cryptocurrency, and wire transfers, it’s almost impossible to get your money back if you’re scammed. Peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo and Zelle also offer little recourse if you get swindled—it’s best to use these only with people you know.
7. Use antivirus protection. Windows 10 and 11 have Microsoft Defender Antivirus, which can shield you from threats like malware (Check settings to make sure it’s turned on). Apple’s built-in security is always on. You can get additional protection from software like Avast Premium Security or Bitdefender Internet Security.
Source: Consumer Reports August 2023 edition, The Consumer Reports Scam Protection Guide · Digital edition: https://www.consumerreports.org/money/scams-fraud/how-to-protect-yourself-from-scams-and-fraud-a6839928990/#be-careful-with-q-r-codes