Tips on how to avoid consumer fraud

Are you doing your very best to avoid being scammed? Every year, millions of people are affected by tax, bank, phone, and credit card fraud, and statistics are not showing a decrease in these misdeeds.

Unfortunately, the advancement of technology has created many loopholes that can make fraud attempts easier than ever before. We all love to use our computers and cell phones, but if we don’t take the proper steps to secure the data within them, then we are giving a free pass to those who want to use our information against us.

Fortunately, there are many tips you can use to decrease the chances of consumer fraud, and they are easier than you may think.

How to Spot Potential Fraud

Every day, scammers are coming up with new approaches to successfully commit consumer fraud, so understanding how to spot potential fraud can go a long way to keeping your information safe. One of the primary ways that scammers will try to contact you is through email. It is a tactic called phishing. If you ever get an email from any financial institution asking for personal information — crypto-related or otherwise — consider that a red flag.

Scammers will work hard to make the email look real by including the company logo and a fake email address with the institution’s name thrown in. However, keep in mind that a legitimate financial institution will never email you asking for personal information. Even with that said, if you are concerned that it may be a scam email, call the financial institution to confirm. Never blindly respond to an email if you have the slightest doubt of its legitimacy.

Many phishing emails will include hyperlinks or attachments, do not click or open any of these. An attachment may include a virus, and a hyperlink could lead you to a dangerous site or a fake Bitcoin wallet. As a safety step, if you think an email is on the shady side, hover your mouse over the real-looking hyperlink, and you can see the fake website URL.

Here are a few other ways to detect potentially fraudulent activity:

  • Financial websites should have HTTPS at the top and not HTTP. The latter means the site is not encrypted and could be dangerous.
  • Websites that promise to double your bitcoin overnight likely aren’t legitimate.
  • Ponzi sites that promise to give you free money if you invite other users to join — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Data Security on Mobile Apps

Over the years, there has been a rise in fintech (financial technology) and mobile finance solutions aimed at making the consumer’s life easier. However, with new technology comes new opportunities for consumer fraud. Consumers are not blind to these new privacy concerns, and many of them may decide not to use a mobile app if they think it will threaten their security. This is why it is equally vital that financial companies ensure their mobile apps are secure.

For one, financial companies should make sure that only the most essential personal information is stored on an app and that users understand that their personal information is only used to make the app more useful for their needs. There also should be the option for a customer to refuse to include any of their personal information if they do not feel comfortable doing so. Finally, a company should always have their privacy policies available to the user.

When it comes to fraud via mobile apps, it is also on the consumers to avoid potentially dangerous scenarios. Most important of which is to keep your phone with you and to have it immediately shut down if it is stolen, as it will be a treasure trove of information to fraudsters. Users should also have a secure lock screen with a complex PIN or password as criminals can sometimes gain access to your device and plant malware without having physical access to your device.

Fraud Prevention & Safe Record Keeping

When it comes to avoiding consumer fraud, the best course of action is to be proactive, so you don’t have to be reactive when a breach occurs. It is essential to take all necessary precautions to make sure that this info never gets in the wrong hands. Always be aware of potential threats, whether you are out on the road or in your home office.

Fraudsters can use just about any form of information to turn your life upside down. A few basic tips to keeping your information secure include:

  • Limiting the number of credit cards you have.
  • Closing accounts you no longer use.
  • Having a lockable mailbox
  • Shredding any old bills or unused pre-approved credit card options.
  • Avoid putting your social security card in your wallet or the number on your driver’s license, checks, or any other items that can be easily stolen.

In the end, it is all about safe record keeping. Any physical information with personal data including social security numbers and other account numbers should be stored in a secure place like a safe or a safety deposit box. Electronic records on your computer must also be secured with complex passwords and proper antivirus software that has updates automatically downloaded and installed when necessary.

As you can see, the advancement of technology can be a blessing and a curse. Tech can help our lives be more efficient, but if not used properly, it can also open doors to the bad guys. Take a proactive approach to the security of your data and personal information and put such worries to the back of your mind.