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Protecting yourself and your money from scammers

Every time I open my email it seems I have won money from a far-flung country or my co-operation is desperately needed to retrieve a long-lost fortune that only I am capable of delivering, if I send some huge amount to untangle the bureaucracy and liberate the funds. Sound familiar? The sad part is that these offers play on our emotions and inherent goodness and we may become entangled in them and cheated out of our hard-earned money. How do you protect yourself? No matter how enticing or genuine the offer may seem, make sure you delete the email and resist engaging with the sender because once you respond, you will encourage them. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it is. You should also be wary of phony bank emails. Fraudsters have become more sophisticated and developed techniques that make their emails look like they are official requests from your financial institution. Remember, banks will never solicit you online and more importantly will never ask you to verify personal information online. Think about it. They already have your personal information. The best thing to do is delete these emails. Financial institutions do not take kindly to people who fall for these scams and are under no obligation to reimburse you for fraud committed on your account under these circumstances. Never click on any links within these emails, as they may contain viruses or keylogging software that will record PIN numbers and passwords that the scammers can use to empty your bank account without your knowledge. It is your responsibility to protect yourself online. Make sure you have quality antivirus software running at all times and that it is up to date.

What about all those nuisance calls from credit card, cellphone, alarm or utility companies? These calls may be fraught with more danger than is apparent. It seems we are constantly being bombarded with offers and upgrades that are only clever ways to maintain our loyalty. These calls are designed to get you to reveal information without your realizing it. Answering questions like: “Do you currently have an alarm?” can be more trouble than you realize. My personal favourite is when they ask me to confirm my address or credit card information. Last time I checked, they were calling me. Don’t give out any personal information over the phone unless you know who you are talking to.

When in doubt, disconnect. It may not be polite, but it could save you a lot of grief down the road.

Simple tips to protect yourself
• Never give credit information to strangers.
• Change your PIN numbers online frequently.
• Change your bank PIN numbers frequently. Go to the bank to do this.
• Shield the keypad when keying in your code. Eyes are everywhere, especially in stores.
• When you use the bank machine, look around to see who is behind you.
• Never leave your PIN numbers in your wallet or store them on a computer; commit these numbers to memory and
absolutely do not write them on the back of your bank card.
• When setting PIN numbers do not use birthdays, sequential numbers (i.e. 1, 2, 3, 4), or one digit in repetition.
• Be careful about where you use your bank cards. If in doubt, pay cash or use credit.