Like millions of other Americans, you’re probably spending more time online during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. While the extra screen time is keeping you connected, it can also pose a higher risk, thanks to the efforts of opportunistic scammers. Staying alert can help protect you and your loved ones during this time.
Pay close attention to emails, sites and mobile apps that take advantage of pandemic fears, and stay vigilant.
Some email scams appear to come from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Others lure people to fraudulent treatment or vaccine websites in attempt to steal credit card and other personal information.
Employment scams may promise attractive work-from-home jobs or a quick hiring process, preying upon those who've been laid off or furloughed to pandemic-related circumstances.
During your time at home, here are some tips to keep yourself and your family safe.
It's important to talk to your kids about the dangers of revealing too much personal data, either intentionally or unintentionally. Seniors, too, are online more and more, and as new adopters to technology, they may click on unsafe links or more easily get caught up in scams.
Social media, gaming communities, surveys and other websites often ask for a variety of data. And when buying items online, kids and seniors may not always think about whether the website is secure and encrypted.
But your family's internet use isn't the only gateway to your data. Knowing how to manage your personal information online and offline can protect your finances and guard against identity theft.
Children become targets as soon as they are born and leave the hospital with a Social Security number. If an identity thief manages to learn a child's Social Security number, they can apply for government benefits, open bank and credit card accounts, apply for loans, set up utility service or rent a home or apartment. And because you may not think to check a child's credit report, this type of fraud can go on a long time before being detected.
As your child grows, many schools and organizations will require you to provide information. Ask how your child's data is collected, used, stored and discarded, and pay close attention if you are notified of a data breach.
Additionally, children themselves often divulge more personal data than they realize. Kids often willingly provide their name, birthdate and other specifics via social media or online communities. There's also a surprising link between fraud and online bullying. Vulnerable children may overshare information, and this could lead to emotional or financial manipulation by online perpetrators.
Children who were bullied online were 9 times more likely to be identity theft victims.2
Each year, 1 million children may be victims of identity theft.2
Seniors' regular income and accumulated assets put them at greater risk for financial exploitation, online and offline.
Financial abuse can take many forms. An individual may be pressured by a friend or family member to make uncharacteristic financial decisions and provide access to accounts only to funnel assets away. A phone or online scammer could convince the individual into paying for fraudulent services or investment schemes.
Hackers and identity thieves may obtain data before you even know it's missing. Whether it's your data that has been exposed, or that of your child or aging parent, it's important to act quickly to minimize any potential financial damage.
Online, offline and on your phone—get tips to safeguard your personal data.
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Federal Trade Commission
1 Identity theft reports made to the Federal Trade Commission, 19 or younger and 60 and older. Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2019.
2 Source: Javelin Strategy & Research, 2018 Child Identity Fraud Study.
3 Source: National Council on Aging
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