How to Protect Your Money from Shady Online Scammers
Back with another .gif because, you know, I live for them. And this one fits perfectly with our talk on scammers.
If you don’t know who the gorgeous gal above is (lol) it’s Joanne the Scammer and part of the inspiration behind this post. (The other inspiration is me actually almost getting scammed, more on that later.)
Joanne the Scammer is a parody character played by a guy named Branden. She funds an extravagant lifestyle by scamming people out of money in various random ways like helping herself to PayPal accounts, snatching credit cards, and hacking into FASFA.
All of her goofy escapades are documented on the Instagram profile @iambranden.
What’s the connection here?
Her character blew up within months on social media. In my opinion, the popularity of her page has a lot to do with the uptick in scammy behavior these days and how easy it is to become a victim.
Every few months it seems a new company has its secure information hacked compromising thousands of customer data.
Or someone starts a GoFundMe for what seems like a worthwhile cause and is later caught spending money on completely unrelated things.
Or fraudsters come up with a new email scam to get personal information like your credit card number, address, social security number, etc.
I experienced an incident just last week where PayPal alerted me to someone logging into my account from India. Yes, someone other than me was snooping around my PayPal account.
Thankfully, no money was taken. Until this incident, I’ve been pretty fortunate in avoiding any type of scam or fraud.
Here are a few simple rules you can follow to avoid it, too:
1. “Switch it, change it”
Keeping the same username and password for all of your accounts is a rookie mistake. And it’s the mistake I made when I got my account logged into by someone in India.
If you give someone the username and password for one of your accounts (maybe your email, Facebook or Twitter for example), and that’s the same username and password you use for your financial accounts, you’re putting yourself at risk.
Switch up your username and passwords for each of your accounts and don’t make it easy to figure out. That means no “password” or “abc123” passwords.
2. Don’t take the easy way
When you go to a website and log into your account, there’s usually an option to save the password.
Although it’s convenient, this also means if someone gets ahold of your device and your passwords are stored they can get in without much effort.
If you have a hard time remembering the various username and passwords for sites, it’s probably a better idea to write them down and store them somewhere safe than keep them saved on a website.
3. Be aware of the slimy tactics
Scammers know which buttons to push to get you to give them what they want. Two of the main buttons are fear and urgency. If they can get you to think there’s a situation that requires your attention right away, you’ll be more likely to go for the scam. Then by the time you figure out it’s actually a scam, that person is long gone.
For instance, the “you’ve won a contest” scam is textbook urgency tactic. For you to claim the prize, you need to follow instructions (usually sending a small fee) right away. This way you’re unable to think it through without missing on the opportunity.
Tax scams are also growing in popularity. Someone will ask you to repay back taxes and threaten jail if you don’t pay ASAP. Take a deep breath, ask for a second opinion, and do some research before giving into someone pressuring you for quick money.
4. Review your credit report regularly
You may not be able to eliminate hackers from getting your personal information altogether. Technology and methods are always evolving. Plus, accidents happen.
A few years ago, I thought I lost my social security card. There was really nothing I could do but play interference if someone did try to take my identity. So, I signed up to get regular credit monitoring and credit scores with myFico.com.
Now, there are a few places that you can get your credit report for free. Each year, you’re entitled to one free credit report from all three credit bureaus – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can also get your free credit reports at Credit Sesame.
But, the FICO score (which you can only obtain at myFICO.com for the most part) is what’s used by most credit card companies and lenders to determine if you’re creditworthy. So, if you’re getting prepared to make a major home or auto purchase, a FICO score and report is what you want to be monitoring.
Some credit card and bank companies have start FICO scores and reports with certain products. You should ask to see if your company does to get it for free.
5. Double and triple check sources
This tip is particularly for the GoFundMe campaigns, miracle fitness supplements, and other such ways people ask for your money online.
Just because someone appears legit or a news source touting a product or charity seems like an authority doesn’t mean you should trust it. You can really post or say anything online these days. Don’t invest or buy a product or service from someone you don’t have an established relationship with unless you can find a few unbiased reviews.
6. Install firewalls and web protections
Finally, you should have firewalls and virus detection to protect your computer. We all try to avoid the spammy downloads, but accidents happen. Better safe than sorry.
Also, avoid sending emails and texts with your personal information. If either gets intercepted, you could be in trouble.
Being hyper vigilant about your passwords online and how you share information online. To be aware of any cases of fraud, it’s a good idea to monitor your credit report at least once a year.
— This post or page may contain affiliate links. Don’t worry, though. I only promote products that I’ve used or truly believe in.
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