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Fraud prevention and detection

Date posted:  9/21/16 09:00:00 AM Avoid fraud through precaution

While, the Internet can help make people's lives easier and more convenient, it can also make it easier for personal information to be compromised. Fraud prevention must be a priority now more than ever with the Internet changing continuously.

Follow these tips to protect yourself from thieves who look to gather your personal information for their own financial gain:

Watch out for credit card scams
Unfortunately, credit card rate reduction might be a lure into a trap. With credit card reduction rate scams on the rise, you'll need to be very cautious when evaluating different offers, noted the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Typically scam artists use your phone, email, social media, postal mail and the Internet to convince unsuspecting consumers to provide personal information that can be used to steal your identity.

Know what to look for and what to avoid
When you need to determine whether a credit card rate reduction offer—or any other offer—is legitimate, first and foremost you should always keep in mind it's better to be safe than sorry. If you feel uneasy about an offer, go with your gut.

Never provide your credit card information to someone over the phone, through email or online. Scammers can easily collect this information, use it for their own purchases or sell it to other scammers.

Other personal data you should never give out include:

  • Bank account information
  • Social security numbers
  • Birthdays
  • Passwords

If someone insists you provide this information for whatever reason, hang up the phone as this may be an indication that they are attempting to steal your identity. If the caller was claiming to be with a company, like a bank, alert the company to the situation or report the call to the FTC.

Watch out for phishing scams
Phishing scams occur when what looks like a legitimate source reaches out and requests personal information, noted U.S. News & World Report. Typically this occurs through an email, which may even look like it comes from someone you know. Always be cautious of entering any information in a site after clicking on a link from an email, and never provide personal information via email.

You'll also want to exercise caution while using social media, noted U.S. News & World Report. Social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, provide you with the ability to stay connected with friends and family members. However, there is also a greater potential for scammers to follow or friend you with the intention of gathering personal information or to lead you to a phishing website. In addition, phishing can appear like instant messages from these social media sites, comments on popular posts, fake live-stream videos, and even phony online discounts, surveys or contests.

Even the email accounts of friends may pose a threat. In some instances, their accounts may have been hacked. Be cautious of any deals that seem too good and never share vulnerable personal information on social media. Even information as simple as the name of your dog can allow criminals to correctly answer security questions to change your passwords and access your account.

Report any scammers
USA.gov indicated the various ways to report scams. Doing so can help protect other consumers. It also raises awareness and will assist authorities as they are looking to stamp out this type of crime.

Be proactive
While you can't always protect yourself from fraudulent crimes, you can decrease the likelihood of falling victim.  Not signing your card most likely violates your cardholder agreement and can make the card be turned away by merchants. In addition, trying to protect yourself using "See ID" on your credit card isn't only an ineffective plan, it's outdated. Not enough merchants actually look at the back of the card to make this a successful strategy.

You should also develop stronger passwords to decrease the likelihood of criminals gaining access to personal information. Use at least eight characters and incorporate numbers and letters, and even symbols, into your password to ensure it is more difficult to crack. Never use phone numbers, birthdays or addresses for your password as it makes it far simpler for criminals to guess.

Schedule regular password changes throughout the year to further protect yourself from these types of crimes. Whenever you alter a password, avoid recycling old ones. Keeping your password difficult to guess and fresh is best for your protection. Password managers are growing in popularity, but if you decide to use one it's vital you keep your master password extremely guarded to prevent access to other information.

Don't trust urgent requests for cash
Unfortunately, another technique many thieves use to steal money from unsuspecting victims is to pose as a friend or relative and request money. If a grandchild or friend reaches out via email asking for cash, make sure you reach out to the individual directly and confirm whether he or she actually did contact you.

Grandparents often fall victim to this as they are eager to help their grandchildren. The criminals who take advantage of this are looking to make money quickly off the care and love these individuals have for their family.

Dating and romance scams often take place through online dating websites, but scammers may also use social media or email to make contact. Once they have gained your trust and your defenses are down, they will ask you (either subtly or directly) for money, gifts or your banking/credit card details. The money you send to scammers is almost always impossible to recover and, in addition, you may feel long-lasting emotional betrayal.

Don't use free Wi-Fi for everything
While public Wi-Fi networks are convenient for many reasons, they can be dangerous if used while shopping or checking your bank account. Instead, purchase items online only if you know you have a secure and private connection. This may mean waiting until you get home.

Protecting yourself from fraud means you'll need to make sure you will be able to recognize when a situation has put your personal information at risk. It also means you're prepared and know how to combat this type of crime.