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Wednesday, June 20 News

Living With Technology / Protecting yourself from scams

It seems there are always people trying to separate you from your money. Technology has increased your risk profile substantially. But there are steps you can take to protect your privacy and money.

Oh, and before we go further, I fell for a scam recently. More on that later.

Frequently, people receive phone calls from others either threatening them with action from the IRS, FBI or similar organizations if you don’t either press a number on the phone or call another number immediately.

First of all, the government doesn’t make phone calls to people requiring immediate action, so if you receive a call like this, you can simply hang up.

Second, if you receive a call from a bank, healthcare company or other organization with whom you do business asking to confirm some information about you, don’t. Just because someone is calling you and has some information about you doesn’t mean they’re calling from the company they claim.

I recommend when people call you unannounced wanting information, ask what department they’re with and what information they’re requesting, then let them know you’ll call the organization directly and get connected with the department. Hang up, then call the phone number listed on your credit card, healthcare ID or some other document that has a reliable phone number on it. If the caller was legitimate, you will be able to reach that person or department again and provide the needed information.

Third, when I receive recorded calls from companies, I generally ignore them. Unless they’re a physician confirming an appointment, I don’t even bother with them and hang up. Recently, I’ve found some of the recorded voices offer cute recorded quips that make it sound like there’s a real person on the line. But I’ve now heard the cute recorded quips so many times, I know I’m listening to a recording.

Fourth, when you receive emails from people that ask you to log in to one of your accounts, don’t. This is where I fell for a scam recently. Someone sent me a link that asked me to log in to my Dropbox account in order to retrieve a file. I had to enter both my Dropbox login ID and password at a Web site that looked remarkably credible. It only hit me after I entered in the information something seemed unusual. Further investigation of links in the email and addresses in my Web browser indicated that I had fallen for a scam. I was able to quickly change my Dropbox login credentials and let others who might have been affected by this of the problem, but I felt both dumb that I had fallen for the ploy as well as reminded that I need to stay vigilant.

Fifth, when you receive unexpected emails from friends or colleagues with attachments you weren’t expecting, be cautious. If the attachment looks like something that might be of interest, call the person and ask them. It generally only takes a few minutes and can save you hours or years than trying to repair some damage to your computer, your identity and/or your bank accounts.

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On the plus side, most banks provide numerous protections to customers for fraud. If you notice an erroneous charge or withdrawal from your accounts, contact the bank immediately. They will put a temporary hold on the charges and, in the case of a credit card, may simply cancel the credit card account immediately. I had this happen recently and, while it was a hassle to replace the credit card, it was a lot easier than trying to fix my credit history.

Mark Mathias is a 35+ year information technology executive and a resident of Westport, Connecticut. He can be contacted at livingwithtechnology@mathias.org.

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