Does Your Computer Have a Virus?
Computers, laptops, tablets, and smart devices are all subject to infections from malware. Email attachments, downloads, links, instant messages, and pop-up windows are all common ways for your devices to become infected. But how do you know if your device is infected? Here are some common issues your device may present:
- Slow or sluggish performance
- Frequent crashes
- Repeated error messages
- Being automatically routed to websites you didn’t intend on visiting
- An unintended reset to a new Internet home page that can’t be undone
- Getting bombarded with pop-up ads and/or ads popping up when a browser isn’t open
- Finding a new toolbar added to your browser
- Seeing new icons on your desktop
- Your online search result page only shows ads
- Decreased battery life
- Interrupted or dropped calls
- Aps crashing on mobile devices
You can help protect your devices by:
- Never clicking on links in pop-ups or in emails or text messages from unknown senders
- Never trusting contact information provided in emails, text messages, or pop-ups; check into its reliability on your own
- Never responding to text or automated voice messages on your mobile phone if they’re from an unknown or blocked caller
- Knowing that most legitimate companies and organizations won’t request personal information via email
- Being cautious about downloading email attachments; always be sure that you know and trust the sender
If you suspect your device is infected with malware:
- Immediately stop all online activities that require you to enter any kind of personal information
- Update and run your security software
- Get reliable tech support, if possible
Beware of Traditional Identity Theft Tactics
Despite all the new and sophisticated ways identity thieves have invented to steal your sensitive personal information, the old tried-and-true tactics still pose a real threat. Here are some common “old school” tactics identity thieves use and some ways to protect yourself from them.
- Mail Theft: Use a locking mailbox, if possible. If this isn’t an option, you can rent a PO Box at your local post office. Put outgoing mail in a secure postal mailbox.
- Dumpster Diving: Shred documents containing your personal information. It’s also good to shred credit card and loan offers. Cross-cut shredders are more secure than ones that just cut horizontal strips.
- Shoulder Surfing: This happens when the thieves watch you or eavesdrop on your conversations in order to steal your information. They’ve even been known to record their victims by using their smartphones. Keep your personal information safe by:
- Shielding ATM keypads with your hand or body before entering your PIN.
- Avoiding sharing personal information over the phone in public. If you must do this, lower your voice and shied your mouth.
- Purse or Wallet Snatching: Minimize what you carry in your purse or wallet. Only carry the credit or debit cards you know you’ll be using that day. Never carry your Social Security card, unless you absolutely have to. Keep your car doors locked when filling up at the gas pump. Thieves often target women who are alone by sneaking up to the car door opposite the pump, opening the car door, and taking off with an unguarded purse or wallet.
Would You Know if You Were a Victim of Identity Theft?
Many people don’t know they’ve been a victim of identity theft until it’s too late. Here are some telltale indicators that you may be a victim:
- You notice errors or unknown transaction on your bank account or credit card statement
- Your credit report reflects unfamiliar accounts or charges
- Your credit report contains unfamiliar credit card applications, loan inquiries, or other services you didn’t initiate
- You receive collection notices or calls about a debt that isn’t yours
- You have a good credit rating but get denied credit
- Your checks are refused by merchants
- Bills, statements, or other expected mail doesn’t arrive when you expect it to
- You get bills for accounts you didn’t open
- Your health insurance responds to your legitimate medical claim with a notice that your benefits limit was reached
- Your medical records report a condition you don’t have
- You are notified by the IRS that you have income from an employer unknown to you or that there was more than one tax return filed with your Social Security number
- You are notified of a data breach at a company that involves your information
What can you do if you discover that you’re a victim of identity theft?
- Contact any businesses where you know the fraud took place. Close any affected accounts, or ask for them to be frozen so an identity thief can’t add any new charges.
- Place an initial fraud alert on your files by contacting one of the three major U.S. credit reporting companies to report yourself as a victim of identity theft.
- Order a credit report. By law, you are entitled to free copy of your credit report once per year from all three companies. You must contact each company individually to order a report.
- File a complaint with the FTC. www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or 877-438-4338
- File a police report with your local police department. Be sure to give them a copy of your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit (if possible), any proof of identity theft, proof of your address, and a government-issued photo I.D.
Be very organized when responding to identity theft.
- Log every phone call with the date, time, and name of person you spoke to at each agency or company.
- Never send original document. Make copies and send those instead.
- Send all letters and document copies by certified mail and request a return receipt.
- Make copies of all correspondences you get from every agency or company.
The three major U.S. credit reporting agencies are:
- Equifax: www.equifax.com 888-766-0008
- Experian: www.experian.com 888-397-3742
- Transunion: www.transunion.com 888-680-7289
Traveling can open you up to new scams identity thieves use to try and get a hold of your personal information. Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself.
Reduce What You Carry: Be sure to only carry the credit and debit cards you know you’ll be using on your trip. Never carry your Social Security card with you on your trip.
Take Care in Tourist Areas: Thieves often target areas known to be tourist “hot spots”. These places are a favorite for card skimming. Before you insert your credit or debit card into a card reader or ATM, give the machine a gentle tug. If the card reader is loose or comes off, do not use the machine. Chances are, you just discovered a skimmer.
Avoid Using Public Computers: These could have information-stealing software already installed on them. If you must use one, never enter payment information and avoid logging onto online accounts…even social media.
Leave Your Checkbook at Home: Your checks contain your name, address, routing number, and account number on them. They are a gold mine of information for identity thieves. Traveler’s checks are a safer alternative.
Verify Callers to Your Hotel Room: A newer, common scam involves thieves calling your room from a hotel courtesy phone pretending to be the hotels’ desk clerk. They claim there’s an issue with the card you used at check-in and ask you to give them your card number over the phone. If this happens, visit the front desk yourself to check.
Beware of Unsolicited Delivery Flyers: Thieves will sometimes create fake food delivery flyers and slip them under hotel doors, hoping someone will call to place an order and give their credit card information over the phone. If you receive one of these flyers, check the validity of it with the front desk.
Be Safe When Using Wi-Fi: Public Wi-Fis are often not secure, so if you tap into an airport’s, hotel’s, or restaurant’s free public Wi-Fi:
- Make sure it’s an authenticated Wi-Fi network. Manually select network connections and know the exact name of the establishment’s network.
- Never log into personal accounts or send personal information over a free public Wi-Fi without encrypting it first.
- Always log off an account as soon as you have finished using it.
- Avoid using apps that require personal information.
Elder Financial Abuse
What It Is and What to Look for
Elder financial abuse spans a broad spectrum of conduct, including:
- Taking money or property
- Forging an older person's signature
- Getting an older person to sign a deed, will, or power of attorney through deception, coercion, or undue influence
- Using the older person's property or possessions without permission
- Promising lifelong care in exchange for money or property and not following through on the promise
- Confidence crimes ("cons") are the use of deception to gain victims' confidence
- Scams are fraudulent or deceptive acts
- Fraud is the use of deception, trickery, false pretense, or dishonest acts or statements for financial gain
- Telemarketing scams. Perpetrators call victims and use deception, scare tactics, or exaggerated claims to get them to send money. They may also make charges against victims' credit cards without authorization
Who are the Perpetrators?
Family members, including sons, daughters, grandchildren, or spouses. They may:
- Have substance abuse, gambling, or financial problems
- Stand to inherit and feel justified in taking what they believe is "almost" or "rightfully" theirs
- Fear that their older family member will get sick and use up their savings, depriving the abuser of an inheritance
- Have had a negative relationship with the older person and feel a sense of "entitlement"
- Have negative feelings toward siblings or other family members whom they want to prevent from acquiring or inheriting the older person's assets
Predatory individuals who seek out vulnerable seniors with the intent of exploiting them. They may:
- Profess to love the older person ("sweetheart scams")
- Seek employment as personal care attendants, counselors, etc. to gain access
- Identify vulnerable persons by driving through neighborhoods (to find persons who are alone and isolated) or contact recently widowed persons they find through newspaper death announcements
- Move from community to community to avoid being apprehended (transient criminals)
Unscrupulous professionals or businesspersons, or persons posing as such. They may:
- Overcharge for services or products
- Use deceptive or unfair business practices
- Use their positions of trust or respect to gain compliance
Who is at Risk?
The following conditions or factors increase an older person's risk of being victimized:
- Recent losses
- Physical or mental disabilities
- Lack of familiarity with financial matters
- Have family members who are unemployed and/or have substance abuse problems
Why are the Elderly Attractive Targets?
- Persons over the age of 50 control over 70% of the nation's wealth
- Many seniors do not realize the value of their assets (particularly homes that have appreciated markedly)
- The elderly are likely to have disabilities that make them dependent on others for help. These "helpers" may have access to homes and assets, and may exercise significant influence over the older person
- They may have predictable patterns (e.g. because older people are likely to receive monthly checks, abusers can predict when an older people will have money on hand or need to go to the bank)
- Severely impaired individuals are also less likely to take action against their abusers as a result of illness or embarrassment
- Abusers may assume that frail victims will not survive long enough to follow through on legal interventions, or that they will not make convincing witnesses
- Some older people are unsophisticated about financial matters
- Advances in technology have made managing finances more complicated
What are the Indicators?
Indicators are signs or clues that abuse has occurred. Some of the indicators listed below can be explained by other causes or factors and no single indicator can be taken as conclusive proof. Rather, one should look for patterns or clusters of indicators that suggest a problem.
- Unpaid bills, eviction notices, or notices to discontinue utilities
- Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts that the older person cannot explain
- Bank statements and canceled checks no longer come to the elder's home
- New "best friends"
- Legal documents, such as powers of attorney, which the older person didn't understand at the time he or she signed them
- Unusual activity in the older person's bank accounts including large, unexplained withdrawals, frequent transfers between accounts, or ATM withdrawals
- The care of the elder is not commensurate with the size of his/her estate
- A caregiver expresses excessive interest in the amount of money being spent on the older person
- Belongings or property are missing
- Suspicious signatures on checks or other documents
- Absence of documentation about financial arrangements
- Implausible explanations given about the elderly person's finances by the elder or the caregiver
- The elder is unaware of or does not understand financial arrangements that have been made for him or her