Virus Alert: COVID Data Scams Are All Too Real
As if we didn’t have enough things to worry about in 2020 . . .
According to a new study by Credit Karma, the U.S. government has "yet to process an estimated 30 million stimulus checks which presents an opportunity for scammers to take advantage of unsuspecting consumers.”
In its survey, Credit Karma found “nearly one-quarter of respondents were contacted by scammers via phone calls and emails, and that younger generations are more likely to be targeted by these bad actors.”
Here are some eye-opening takeaways from the study:
· Nearly one-quarter of unemployed Americans (22%) say they’ve been contacted by a COVID-19 scammer regarding unemployment benefits or stimulus payments.
· Emails and phone calls are the most popular contact method, followed by text messages. One in five (20%) of victims were also contacted through social media.
· Gen Z is most likely to be targeted by scammers (28%), followed by millennials (21%) and nearly one in five respondents Gen X or older (17%) reported being contacted.
· Scammers are not biased towards gender or income. There is a fairly even split between males/females and levels of income when being contacted by these bad actors.
Consequently, it's up to you to protect your personal data during the current pandemic (and afterward, too.)
Along with getting help from companies like banks or credit card companies (among others) who hold your data, take these action steps on your own to curb or even eliminate personal data fraud, especially the newer ones linked to COVID-19.
The "big picture." Never give your account passwords out; never open links on questionable emails, and use comprehensive security software to protect your computer and mobile devices.
Vary your passwords. Changing your password can prevent future data attacks. The idea is to use sophisticated and varied passwords for different accounts, thus curbing the odds that anyone will break into your accounts. Doing so also minimizes the damage done in the event your personal data is hacked.
Never, ever give your personal data to strangers. Financial institutions and U.S. government (especially the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration) all have policies against calling or emailing and asking for your Social Security number or credit account numbers.
If you get a suspicious email, text or phone call asking for personal data information your bank, credit card provider, or government agency already have on file, just ignore it.
Be suspicious of unsolicited emails and texts. Make it a priority to watch out for unsolicited emails asking you for either money or your private data. Don't hesitate - hit the "delete" button right away immediately and never click on any embedded links in suspicious emails.
Watch out on social media. Sharing pictures of your home, workplace or overall general whereabouts seems innocuous enough. The same goes for seemingly innocent and mundane comments on Twitter, Instagram, or other social media sites.
But cyber-thieves can take a kernel of information and use it to unravel enough of your personal data to trigger an outright data hack against you. That's especially the case during COVID-19, when our guard is easily down. Consequently, be careful what you say and who you say it to on social media.
Install security software on your mobile devices and computers. System security companies like LifeLock and Identity Guard do a good job of protecting your personal devices and data, but you've got to install the programs to get the security.
Usually, you can get system protection on a 30-day trial basis, so you can choose which identity protection program works for you. Expect to pay $15 and up-per month for a decent data protection service.
Your best move against data fraudsters during the pandemic? Always treat your personal financial data with respect, and don't share it with others.
Do that and follow the tips above, and you'll vastly reduce your chances of being laid low by digital fraud and I.D. theft in 2020.