Lately I've noticed several fraudulent emails in my inbox, trying to get my personal information! I thought it might be a good idea to post a few reminders about how to protect ourselves against these scams. Here are 20 tips from the Police Department of Bellevue:
1) Make sure you have updated your virus, firewall, and/or spyware protection on your computer.
2) Beware of email scams that ask you to update your account information. Do not follow a link to another site that asks you for a log-in or PIN. It’s better to manually type in the http address or URL that you know is legitimate to confirm if there is any issue or update needed.
3) Beware of email scams from people who say they are in trouble and need help. Do not send money to people in other countries asking for help via email. (Hackers & thieves can make it appear that the email is coming from someone you know, even when it is not!)
4) Be careful when you use WI-FI in unsecured hotspots. Do not enter personal information in an unsecured hotspot.
5) When you dispose of your old computer, wipe the hard drive or destroy it so that no one can get your information off of it.
6) Use a locking mailbox. (Identity Theft can happen when your mail is stolen and personal information is found.) If you don’t have a locking mailbox, be sure to pick up your mail each day and don’t let it stay in the mailbox too long.
7) Never leave outgoing mail in an unsecured area or container.
8) Know the dates when you usually receive bills so that you can determine if your mail has been stolen.
9) Shred all documents that have any personal information about you.
10) Never give out personal information (maiden names, Social Security number (SSN), account numbers) to anyone who contacts you by phone or internet. If a caller says they need the information, contact the company directly, using a phone number that you know is good and make sure they are really who they say they are.
11) When you receive a sales call, say no thank-you and hang up as quickly as possible.
12) Do not give to charities by phone.
13) Use a black gel-ink pen (NOT a ballpoint pen) when you write checks. These pens are more permanent and cannot be “washed” off with check-washing chemicals.
14) Do not give checks to unknown people.
15) Carry only a few credit cards with you.
16) Do not keep your PIN code or passwords in your wallet. Never tell anyone your PIN.
17) Do not carry your Social Security card with you. Keep it in a secure place at home. Also keep passports, birth certificates, and other important documents in a secure, preferably locked, place at home.
18) If someone asks you for your Social Security Number (SSN), you may ask:
Why do you need my SSN?
How will my SSN be used?
What will happen if I do not give you my SSN?
(Then decide if you want to give them your number. In many cases, it is necessary, but in some cases it is not necessary.)
19) Do not leave credit cards, checks, or other identifying information in a gym locker. Keep these with you at all times. Gym lockers are a common place for theft to occur.
20) Review your bank and credit card statements frequently and check your credit history at least 2 times a year to make sure there is no fraudulent activity. You can get a free credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com or call 1-877-322-8228
Did you know…?
You can stop phone solicitors from calling you by signing up for the national “Do Not Call” registry at www.donotcall.gov or call 1-888-382-1222.
Receiving too much Junk Mail?
You can stop pre-approved credit offers from coming in the mail by removing your name from the 3 credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) by going to www.optoutprescreen.com or by calling them at 1-888-567-8688.
**Detective Richard Chinn at Bellevue Police Department handles issues of Fraud & Identity Theft.
Feel free to contact him if you have concerns or questions:
If you are a victim of fraud:
1) Contact the police and file a police report (call 9-1-1 and report a non-emergency)
2) Contact the fraud department of each of the 3 major credit bureaus:
1) Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
2) Experian: 1-888- 397-3742
3) TransUnion: 1-800-916-8800
3) Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened
www.consumer.gov (click on Scams and Identity Theft)