Living in the information age has brought tremendous conveniences to our lives, but it has also introduced a new type of problem—online and phone scams. With more and more people sharing their information with the companies they do business with, more and more predators are trying to steal their information for criminal purposes. To help you and your family keep your financial and personal information safe, Patterson Legal Group presents a guide on how to defeat online and phone scams.
Only Share Personal Information with Official Sources
One technique used by scammers is impersonating a government entity or corporation that you do business with. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some phone scammers claim to be from the IRS and ask for your social security number. They claim to be offering stimulus checks and other pandemic relief, but really want to exploit your social security number.
You should only share this and other identifying information if it’s absolutely necessary. If possible, ask for a callback number and check to see if it’s an official IRS line. If you have doubts, check out the IRS identification protection tips.
Additionally, some scammers will send phishing emails that mask their true identities. They’ll pretend to be from Amazon, Walmart, or some other big box store in your area. Others will claim to be from charities that help recent COVID-19 and hurricane victims.
You can check the true identity of the party that emailed you by examining the reply-to address in the header or clicking reply and viewing the email address that comes up. The US Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has additional information on email and website phishing scams.
If you feel confident about the party you’re sharing information with online, it’s important to make sure that you’re sending information using a secure connection. Web browsers like Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge use a lock icon in the address bar to indicate if a website is secure or not.
If the lock is open, then the connection is unsecure. If the lock is closed, then the connection is secure. Sharing information, such as credit card and social security numbers, through an unsecure connection exposes it to extraction from third parties. Never do this.
Beware of Contests and Giveaways
Some scammers try to disguise their information theft with contests and giveaways. When some people see cash prizes and extravagant items given away for “free,” logic sometimes goes out the window. In general, it’s best to stick with online contests held by companies that you know and trust. However, some prizes might be too difficult to resist. If you’re interested in a company’s contest, giveaway, or sweepstakes, there are several simple things to do in order to keep yourself safe:
- Know what information you’re sharing. A legitimate company will ask for personal information to verify your identity for prizes. A company that asks for things like credit card and social security numbers is almost definitely a scammer.
- Read the contest rules. Like the point above, trustworthy companies have no problem being transparent with contest, giveaway, and sweepstakes rules. If rules are not available, that’s a red flag.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau. If you still have concerns after doing all of the above then you can check the Better Business Bureau to see if a company has previous complaints about illegitimate contests.
As many of you know, Patterson Legal Group holds many contests and giveaways. Please be assured that we will never ask for information inappropriately or use it improperly. If you have any questions about the contests on our site or social media, please feel free to contact us.
Use a VPN When You Access Public WiFi
One of the easiest ways for scammers to extract information is taking advantage of data transmitted through public WiFi. Although many of us take advantage of WiFi connections at airports, coffeehouses, restaurants, and more, not all of us check to see if the connection is safe.
Virtual private network (VPN) services are a fantastic way to ensure a safe online experience. A VPN creates a private tunnel between your computer, phone, or tablet and the online services or websites you’re accessing.
A quality VPN will encrypt data you send and receive. This makes it extremely difficult for scammers to take advantage of you when you’re using public WiFi networks. While some VPN services are free, you get better service and a higher level of security from trusted companies such as ExpressVPN, IPVanish, NordVPN, and Private Internet Access.
The VPN companies mentioned above charge a reasonable annual or monthly fee for their services. If you frequently access the Internet through public WiFi connections, it’s a small price to pay for bigtime security.
COVID-19 Online and Phone Scams
Sadly, the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in an uptick of online and phone scams. Some will try to get your information and money by pushing phony COVID-19 grants. Others will try to sell you fake COVID-19 “cures” and treatments.
Social media has helped many of these scammers. Your friends and family will see something online, think it’s a good thing, and share it on Facebook or Twitter. In reality, it’s a phony grant or a fraudulent treatment. In some cases, these bogus treatments could be dangerous or unsafe products that can cause bodily harm or even wrongful death.
Government grants for individuals are rare. An easy way to see if one is legitimate is to check the source’s email or website; if it doesn’t end in “.gov” then it’s not from the government. As for cures and treatments, you can check their legitimacy through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Hurt by an Unsafe Product? Contact Patterson Legal Group.
Patterson Legal Group hopes that you and your family use the information above to avoid online and phone scams. If you’ve suffered an injury because of a fake COVID-19 treatment then contact us immediately. Our experienced attorneys want to help you fight back against scammers and receive any compensation that you may deserve.
The legal professionals at Patterson Legal Group are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to assist you. You can contact us by phone, LiveChat, and secure contact form. Consultations are free and we do not collect any fees unless your case is won.