With the ever-growing use of telephone commerce and online financial transactions, it has unfortunately become commonplace for malevolent entities to engage in trickery in an attempt to steal unsuspecting consumers' hard-earned money, personal information or both.
Perhaps even more unfortunate is these entities' tendency to target the elderly due to the perceived notion that many have worked their entire lives to secure a comfortable financial standing. Many would-be scammers also falsely believe that the elderly are less likely to be aware of Internet safety precautions, which aids in creating an unsafe situation for many senior citizens. It is important to know the proper steps to take to ensure that you don't fall prey to these techniques.
Regular Credit Checks
If you own a credit account, you are entitled to one free credit check each year under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It is important to take full advantage of this fact, because one of the first ways to detect a fraudulent credit account taken out on your name is to perform a full credit report. This is a great way to ensure that no illicit activity has taken place as a result of information you may have accidentally given out in the past, but is by no means your only defense against those trying to conduct questionable activities. Look at is as a final safeguard against internet or telephone tricks.
This report will give you access to your standing with all three credit institutions – Experian, Transunion and Equifax – and alert you to any illicit activity that you haven't previously consented to. While performing a credit check in itself can prove somewhat laborious, it is well worth your time to see firsthand what your account status is, before someone else does.
Unfortunately, several companies use the guise of a free credit report to charge monthly fees. The best way to perform a credit check is by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com
Keep It Secret, Keep It Safe
A common scam that often tricks many an unsuspecting consumer is simple: nefarious practitioners simply contact people, posing as a bank or other financial institution and ask for pertinent information such as a bank account number or social security number. This can come in the form of phone calls, emails, or even fraudulent websites.
It helps to always remember that any reputable financial institution will not ask you for your account number unless you are contacting them -- in which case you already know who you are providing your information to. Never give out your personal details to anyone you don't know, no matter how convincing they may be.
This precaution can get tricky over the internet. A great way to ensure that you are giving your information to the right people is to double check the website you are visiting. If you are about to enter your bank account number -- or even username and password -- take a quick glance at the address bar to ensure that you are visiting the website you intend to.
Another surefire way to keep your information safe is to look in the bottom right hand corner of the screen and look for a small lock icon. This icon represents the website's authentication with one of several services that specialize in data encryption, which will keep hackers and other scammers from accessing your information. You can even click on the lock to find out more about the service the particular site you are visiting uses. This way you can rest assured that your information remains safe in the digital world.
Try it yourself, many websites such as gmail.com use this feature, ensuring that you can stay safe online.
Too Good to be True
Another common scam that everyone has probably fallen for at least once is the contest scam. This scam, usually on the internet but sometimes over the phone or even in the mail, preys on everybody's desire to win money or other goods with little or no effort.
The way it works is simple, you receive notification that you have won a sum of money or an often popular item, but you must enter some information in order to claim it. This scam serves as a way to catch you off guard and get your private information for a series of malevolent uses from simple email addresses, or worse, bank account or social security numbers.
A good rule of thumb to remember is that you can't really win a contest you didn't enter, as well as the age-old creed: if it's too good to be true, it probably is. Resist the temptation to give out information in return for money or goods because, chances are, it's a scam.
Research, Research, Research
Perhaps the best bit of information to remember is to research anything before you commit your information anywhere.
Many people don't realize this, but if there is indeed a group of people using these means by which to apprehend your information or worse , chances are that someone else has probably experienced the same and might have shared their story on the internet.
Remember, Google is a great resource. Enter the web address of the website or service in question in the search field and you might be able to find out wether or not it is on the up and up. The great thing about the internet is anyone can use their voice, and there are entire websites dedicated to weeding out potential perpetrators.
As we all know, there is no shortage of people who seek to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers either in the mail, on the phone or, more increasingly common every day, on the internet. In times such as these, it is important to be aware of the proper safety precautions to take to ensure that this doesn't happen.
William Martin Jr. is a copywriter for a global branding company and lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. Email: email@example.com