Here are a few recommendations for safer computer and phone usage.

Scams: If it is too good to be true, it is probably too good to be true. Being cautious and aware is important. The Federal Trade Commission provides a Consumer Information page for Scam Alerts.

E-mails and Attachments: It is best not to open e-mails from unknown sources, and you should avoid opening any attachments if you do not know and trust the sender. Even use caution with emails from people you know, if you notice a suspicious link and/or unusual content their account could have been hacked. Delete it and immediately alert the person that their account may have been compromised.

Sensitive Information: Protect your Social Security number and only provide it when absolutely necessary, for example: when you are taking out a mortgage, purchasing a car, having your credit checked, or filling out employment paperwork once you have been hired. Avoid revealing sensitive information online, and remember even seemingly innocent disclosures on social media like your pet’s name or mother’s maiden name could lead to identity theft.

Online Purchases: Only provide your credit card information when purchasing from a reputable source. When making purchases there is always a risk when sharing your data, but using a trusted company with a website that begins with HTTPS: with the lock symbol in front of it, is one of the safer options.

Social Media: It can be a great tool to connect with people, but you should share safely by limiting who you share with and by waiting to post your vacation photos after you have returned home.

Requests for Money: Be cautious of anyone asking for money especially if they are pressuring you to act immediately. If someone insists that you pay with a gift card, use a money transfer service, or asks you to send a check or deposit a check and send money back this is a red flag. Scammers may even impersonate a loved one in distress.

Calls: If someone calls and states that they are calling from your bank or your utility company tell them that you are going to hang up and will call the company back using the official number. Use the number on the back of your credit card, or the phone number on the official website of the utility company to call back. It takes just a few moments, but you then know that you are speaking with the actual company and not someone purporting to be from the company.

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Written 12/22/20 by Linda