By, State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt
There have been plenty of things to keep our minds busy these past few months, and unfortunately, hackers know just how distracted we are and are striking Americans hard. Phishing scams are spiking as online criminals are taking advantage of corporations moving employees to a “work- from- home” office, which does not provide the same level of internet security as working in the office.
The “bad guys” know that IT departments are being stretched thin and are overwhelmed. They are also playing on the emotional aspect of this pandemic to create urgency in their phishing attempts. These criminals may be good at hacking, but what can we do to keep ourselves safe online?
The first and simplest thing you can do is change your passwords regularly, at least once a month. Do not use the same password or the same version of the password for more than one account. Mix it up using upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure anything that is on a network such as baby monitors, home security systems, smart thermostats, gaming consoles all have a strong password and keep their system updated.
Next, be extremely cautious about what you are downloading and opening on the web. Check its authenticity before installing anything. If you are installing a new app, be sure to use a credible source such as Apple’s App Store or Google Play. If you do not have anti-virus software on your computer, now is the time to invest in protection.
Are you receiving more robocalls or text messages about financial support? Hang up on the robocalls and delete the text messages; these are all scams!
Finally, before you make an online purchase, do your homework on your purchasing source. One scam is persuading consumers to buy “essential coronavirus products.” Again, playing off the consumer’s fears of not being able to find products, you make a purchase from this site, and just like that, they have your credit card information, name, and address, and you have no products and identity theft.
I hope these tips are useful to you and help to ensure your online experience is safe. Your personal and financial information is essential. Protecting it is vital.