How to Avoid Scams and Keep Your Info Safe | WaterStone Bank

Over time, online scammers have become more sophisticated. It used to be easy to identify a scam—like the Nigerian prince who emailed everyone, asking for money. Now, online scams are easily disguised and have hoodwinked even the most tech-savvy folks. So, how can you protect your information and avoid falling victim?

A great starting point is to understand the most common scams and how they operate, as each type is engineered to gather information in a different way. Some of the most common scams include:

Phishing scams: Phishing scams are generally emails that appear to be from reputable sources, like banks, or online shopping sites. They trick you into clicking a link in the email, which installs malware on your device. Sometimes, scammers take things a step further and hold your information hostage, demanding a ransom payment for the safe return of your data. Tip-offs that an email might be a phishing scam include an urgent tone, misspelled words, and over-the-top threats, like financial consequences.

Pop-up scams: Also known as scareware, pop-up scams are fraudulent messages about fake antivirus software, tech support, and other services that claim your device or personal information has been compromised. When you click the link, hackers install malware that steals your information. Signs of scareware include popups that are difficult to close, urgent messaging, and software companies that sound made up.

Online shopping: These days, most people shop online more than they do in person. Cyberthieves create fake websites that look nearly identical to existing retailer sites. When you make a purchase, they record your credit card and banking information. Keep a sharp eye for anything on the site that looks iffy, like misspellings, odd logos, and strange products, and always double check the site’s security. The best and easiest way to know if a site is secure is by looking for “https“ instead of “http” in the URL. The “s” indicates that the website has an SSL/TLS certificate, which encrypts the data making it more secure.

Grandparent scams: Elderly people are particularly vulnerable when it comes to online scams. We heard a story of a woman who received an email from her grandson, who was studying abroad and needed money. She got as far as the bank before the teller smelled something fishy, contacted the grandson’s parents, and found that all was well. The moral of the story is to always double check your loved one’s well-being before transferring money.

Romance scams: Ah, one of the many joys of online dating. It’s almost too easy to catfish or be catfished; unfortunately, some scammers use online dating to defraud others by luring them into a false sense of security. Tip-offs include a potential partner who lives out of state, a relationship that moves very quickly, and someone who asks for money and/or personal information. A healthy dose of skepticism goes a long way. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

QR code scams: QR codes made a major comeback during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling people to scan a code wherever they were to access information on their device. Scammers took this a step further by creating QR code stickers and placing them over legitimate QR codes. When you scan the false QR code, it installs malware on your device. If you’re out at a bar, restaurant, or other place where you might scan a QR code, double-check that it hasn’t been tampered with. Or, do some extra clicking and search up the information yourself.

Gift card scams: Out of nowhere, you get a call from the energy company letting you know that your power will be turned off for lack of payment, which sounds odd—you always pay your bill on time. Then, the caller requests you purchase gift cards and submit the numbers as payment for your bill. No company will ever ask you to do this. When in doubt, call the company the scammer claims to be from and verify it’s a scam.

Texting scams: In addition to robocalls, robotexts have become more prevalent. Many are obvious—URLs that contain an intelligible string of characters and come from an unfamiliar source—but others appear to be reputable, like a code from your bank asking to verify your identity. The texts themselves may be fine but remember that no one will ever call you asking for that code. It’s for your eyes only—never believe anyone who calls and claims they need the code.

These are but a few of the many scams doing the rounds. Be smart and stay vigilant. If something looks fishy or sounds too good to be true, it probably is. When in doubt, always verify the source by checking the website URL, researching the funny-sounding company, or calling your bank. At WaterStone Bank our Customer Support Center Team is just a call away and can be reached at 414-761-1000. We’re here just for you!

Do your part to stop scammers in their tracks by reporting online scams to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center and help keep yourself—and others—safe.

Source: Norton.

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