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Fraud Prevention During the Coronavirus Outbreak: Protecting Your Family

Follow these tips to avoid scams and help protect your personal and financial information in today's increasingly digital world.

A woman looks at her phone.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in internet use because more people are working from home and going online to order groceries or get meals delivered.

But that can also pose risks: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned about a new wave of scams as imposters use fake texts, online offers, and solicitations that play on our fears and emotions.

The key to helping protect yourself and your family is to stay vigilant by following these tips.

1. Learn to spot imposter scams

Imposters have been known to spoof their caller ID or email address so it appears that they are a legitimate company.

When in doubt, do not respond, click any links, or open attachments in a suspicious email or text message. Instead, alert your provider to the suspicious communication. Follow the FTC’s advice on avoiding scams related to the coronavirus pandemic. And brush up on how to spot phishing email and text scams.

2. Manage and monitor your credit

If your data has been compromised through a security breach, consider placing a fraud alert on your credit file with the three major credit bureaus. The FTC’s website has more identity theft prevention tips and resources you can share with your family.

Make a habit of reviewing your and your family’s credit reports at least once a year. From now through April 2021, you can review your credit report once a week at no cost on annualcreditreport.com. Look for unauthorized accounts that may have been opened in your names.

3. Limit what you share on social media

Thieves scour social media profiles for clues to security questions, passwords, and other information that could potentially help them impersonate their victims online.

To protect yourself, first set your profiles to private—and encourage your family members to do the same. Also, restrict your social media contacts to people you know personally. Finally, be careful about what information you disclose. Completing personal questionnaires on social media might be fun, but it also makes keywords about your life and private information more vulnerable.

4. Protect your accounts and home network

Create strong passwords for online accounts and your home wireless network. Consider using a unique phrase for each account with a mix of letters and numbers. Avoid using part of your email address or information shared on social media, such as the name of your pet, favorite movie, or anything else someone could easily guess. For your wireless router configuration, use strong encryption.

5. Stay up to date

Cybercriminals change their tactics frequently, so families should stay on top of the latest threats through sites like the FTC’s Scam Alerts and the Wells Fargo page on scams and cyberthreats. Be sure to work with your advisor and other financial professionals to understand additional ways to protect yourself as you conduct financial business online.

Suzanne Bopp is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared at Salon.com and in Utne Reader. Photography iStock Photo

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