Easy Ways Your Personal Information Can Be Stolen | WaterStone Bank

In this day and age, it’s virtually impossible to escape the internet. We live in a digital world, and as great as it can be—information at your fingertips, ease of use, funny cat videos—it also has a dark underbelly. Over the years, scammers have grown more sophisticated and found new ways to access personal information you’d rather keep private. How in tune are you with common information theft scams, and do you know how to avoid them?

Spoofing and phishing

Spoofing and phishing are probably the most common scams—and the easiest to avoid. Email scammers try to catch your eye with an attention-grabbing subject line, whether it’s a problem with your bank account or a can’t-miss sale at your favorite store. When you click a link or open an attachment, the scammer installs malware on your device that can infiltrate your files and steal information like bank account numbers, website passwords and more.

Common email scams include:

  • Scams that imitate a person or business you’re familiar with
  • An urgent, don’t-miss-it offer
  • An “official notice” that encourages you to take action
  • Lottery win
  • Fake survey

Phone scammers call claiming to be from a legitimate business and ask you to take action. They may request an additional payment so that an essential service, like your power, remains on. Or, they may call and ask you to verify a code that was sent to you via text message from a legitimate business.

How to protect yourself from falling victim to spoofing and phishing:

  • Examine each email carefully. Do you recognize the sender, or is there something off about their name or email address? Look for things like a zero instead of an O, or an unusual number of misspelled words.
  • Hover over links and images without clicking to see what shows up; does it look like a legitimate website, or does it have a string of characters that make no sense?
  • If anything looks strange, err on the side of caution. Contact the supposed sender/caller directly to verify whether or not the email or call is legitimate.
  • Most businesses will not call and request codes sent via text message. Anyone who calls should be considered suspicious.

Elder fraud

Elderly people are still the most likely to fall victim to scams. Take, for example, a woman who receives an email from her grandson, who is studying abroad and asks her to wire him money. On the surface, the facts check out; however, it’s possible that the grandson’s email account was hacked and that the email is a scam.

How to protect yourself from elder fraud:

  • Double-check everything before taking action. Contact the individual or business that appears to have sent you the email or made the phone call to verify that it was them.
  • Anyone asking for personal information should be considered suspicious, unless you are 100% sure that they are legitimate.

Unsecured passwords

There was once a day when we only needed one or two passwords for a handful of websites. Nowadays, you need a password for everything—and, yes, it’s smart to have a different password for each. It’s annoying, but it’s for your own good.

How to secure your passwords:

  • Do not keep a doc on your device listing all your passwords. That’s the first thing a hacker will look for.
  • Don’t use things like addresses, children’s or pets’ names, or any other identifying details in your password.
  • Don’t comment on social media posts that pose a question for which the answer is somewhat personal. It’s an open invitation for scammers to guess your password and hack your social media accounts—or worse.
  • Use a variety of letters and characters in an order that doesn’t make sense. Password! is probably the worst password ever. P@$$w0rd! isn’t great, but it’s better.

At the end of the day, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If something seems too good to be true, or sounds a little fishy, it probably is. Double-check everything, follow your instincts and don’t keep your passwords in a digital file on your computer.

Remember, WaterStone Bank will never call or email you directly and ask for your personal information. If you have questions or believe you may have fallen victim to a scam, please call our Customer Support Center at (414) 761-1000, or visit your local branch immediately. For more security tips and additional resources, visit wsbonline.com.

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