Don't click that link! If you don't know who an email is from, don't click on anything in that email, or open anything attached to it. Cyber criminals have figured out how to create emails that look like they’re coming from legitimate sources, including banks, government agencies, and other services and businesses. Be vigilant about these communications, as they can collect your personal and financial information and infect your computer, tablet, or smartphone with malware and viruses.
Before you send money to anyone, do your homework. You're a good person, so your first instinct is to help when you receive an email from a family member or friend asking you to wire money. Don't automatically fall for the request; verify whether the situation is real. Criminals have become experts at impersonating those closest to you by exploiting your personal information available online. Example: Someone sounding a lot like your college-age granddaughter calls you, saying she's stranded somewhere far away and needs money. Calmly tell her "I want to help, but I know there are a lot of scams out there. Let me call your mom (or dad, or other close family member) and just verify that you're where you say you are. If we all agree this is a legitimate request, of course I'll help." Chances are the caller will hang up, and you'll have your answer!
If an offer or announcement seems too good to be true -- it is. You've received an email stating you’ve won a prize, the lottery, or a sweepstakes. If you're asked to pay a fee or tax before receiving your prize, or if there’s a request for your credit card or bank account information, rest assured the communication is a scam. Don't fall for it!
"Big savings on your health insurance"? Not so fast. Be wary of calls, emails, or letters that promise you insurance savings. You'll know you're dealing with a cyber criminal if the person requests your Medicare or health insurance information, Social Security number, or financial information. Don't respond.
If it's not broken, don't fix it! If someone claiming to be with a technology company contacts you and wants to diagnose a computer problem you didn’t know you had, or provide technical support you haven't requested, terminate the conversation! If you receive an unexpected pop-up or email about an urgent problem with your computer, don't believe it. Scammers are likely trying to obtain remote access to your computer to look for information such as bank-account numbers.
Be vigilant about your bank and credit accounts. Victims of identity theft often feel violated—rightly so, since this crime involves someone using your personal information to obtain money or credit. Signs that you may be a victim of identity theft include:
- Bills for products or services you never purchased
- Unauthorized withdrawals from your bank
- Unauthorized charges on your credit card statements
- New accounts in your name -- ones you did not request
- A decrease in the amount of mail you receive
- Receiving rejections via mail or email for a credit application you did not complete