Here’s how to prevent scammers from stealing your money or personal data.

  1. By requesting electronic statements and accepting bills and bank statements only online. Helps to avoid having important personal information stolen from your home or mailbox.
  2. Have a shredder. Shred all bills and financial documents that you do not need to retain.
  3. Take these steps to protect your identity:
    • Freezing your credit report. Preventing “running credit” on you to use your credit information to open phony accounts. It’s free, but you must contact the credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and Transunion. To allow legitimate access to your credit, such as when you apply for a loan, just unfreeze.
    • Don’t enter sweepstakes. They usually involve sending a lot of personal data. If you absolutely, positively must enter one, always ask what they will do with the data.
    • Don’t give out your SSN. There may be a valid reason for a bank, credit agency or government agency to ask for this—but always look up the company’s or government agency’s phone number on a secure website and call them. Do not give this information if asked in a phone call that you have not safely initiated.
  4. Keep your money safe. Here’s how:
    • Use a credit card—not a debit card. And pay off the credit card bill quickly and completely each month. Interest on unpaid amounts is huge.
    • Prefer mobile payments to credit cards. Apple Pay or Google Pay is safer.
  5. Control scam phone calls. Here’s how:
    • Enroll in the National Do Not Call Registry. It may not eliminate scam calls but should reduce them significantly. Call 888-382-1222 or register at donotcall.gov.
    • Don’t answer calls from unrecognized numbers. Consider adjusting the Do Not Disturb setting on your phone so that only calls on your contact list will go through while all others will go straight to voicemail.
    • Be ready to hang up. As soon as you answer the phone and recognize the robocall, hang up before you do or say anything.
  6. Be wary of public Wi-Fi. Scammers readily hack accounts used on public Wi-Fi. If possible, use your cell phone as a personal hot spot. If you must use public Wi-Fi, consider installing a virtual private network (VPN) on your device.
  7. Use caution on what you share. Scammers roam social media for personal data. Don’t share phone numbers, addresses, payment information, health information, birthdays and especially SSNs.
  8. Don’t reveal your location. Showing that you are away is an invitation to thieves.
  9. Be skeptical of offers of “protection,” such as:
    • Fear-based scams. For example, a recent scam threatening to expose recipients as visiting and using porn sites, even though in most cases they didn’t. Many recipients paid up just to avoid further harassment.
    • Recovery pitches (“reload” scams). Victims of a scam are offered help recovering their money—for a fee, of course.

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