Top Tips to Protect Yourself Against Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft and Reduce Spam Email
Top Tips to Protect Yourself Against Frauds and
Scams, Identity Theft and Reduce Spam Email
What can you do to defend yourself from scams, frauds and
identity theft? Whether you think you have been the victim of a fraud or scam or
want to be proactive in protecting yourself, here is a list of specific and
simple actions that you can take, some just once, to protect yourself and your
family! We have ranked them in order that you should take them:
- Don't use or carry a checkbook. Pay by cash or credit card.
Paying your bills through your bank or credit union's online bill paying
service (which is usually free) is much safer than mailing a check.
- Buy and use a paper shredder. Shred any documents that have your
social security number or other financial information, such as your bank
account numbers, credit card numbers etc. identity thieves actually go
through homeowner's trash to obtain personal information. If you don't have
a shredder, burn these documents completely in the fireplace. For
large volumes of sensitive documents, you can go to a
paper shredding service.
- Freeze your credit! It prevents scammers from opening
unauthorized accounts in your name. Even if your state is one of the
few that doesn't allow a freeze, thanks to pressure from consumer advocacy
groups, you can still freeze your files at the
three major credit bureaus.
See this page for more
information about both freezes.
- Sign up on the Do-Not-Call List
- Sign up to block credit card offers
from arriving in your mailbox.
- Don't carry your Social Security card with you. When you renew
your driver's license, make sure the DMV does not use your Social Security
number as your driver's license number.
- Use a separate email address when you post messages to any public forum,
such as newsgroups and mailing lists. Free email accounts from
Hotmail are perfect for this. Never use your personal email address for this
purpose: you will be flooded with spam. You can periodically check this
email account to see what's spam and what isn't. A bonus is that Yahoo's
spam blocker is better than those from most ISP's! And your main personal
email address won't be as clogged with spam. Some ISP's, like AOL and BellSouth.net give you multiple email accounts free with your paid service.
- Don't give out any financial information, such as checking
account and credit card numbers; and especially your social Security number;
on the phone or online, unless you initiate the call and know the person or
organization you're dealing with. Don't give that information to any
stranger. In general, it is only
required for medical providers, banks, mortgages and credit card companies.
- Don't enter your phone number, email address or any confidential
information on any health insurance brokker's website (like
website for information about how to safely find the best health insurance
- Don't fill out the "win a vacation" and other promotions you see in
stores and shopping malls. That will just get you on a junk mailing
list and guarantee calls from persistent, high-pressure salesmen.
- Don't pre-print your driver's
license, telephone or Social
Security numbers on your checks.
And in states that want to use your social security number as your driver's
license number, insist on another method - most allow it.
- Report lost or stolen checks
immediately. The bank can block
payment on the check numbers
that are missing. Also, review new checks
you receive, to
make sure none has been stolen in
- Store new and cancelled checks, credit card statements, medical
bills, anything with confidential information, in a safe place and shred
them when you are done with them.
- Guard your Personal
Identification Numbers (PINs) for
your ATM and credit cards, and don't
write on or keep your PINs with your
cards. You should also guard your
ATM and credit card receipts.
Thieves can use them to access your
- Be creative in selecting
Personal Identification Numbers for
your ATM and credit cards, and
passwords that enable you to access
other accounts. Don't use birth
dates, part of your Social Security
Number or driver's license number,
address, or children's or spouse's
names. Remember: If someone
has stolen your identity, he or she
probably has some or all of this
- Use a good anti-virus software, anti-adware software and a hardware
firewall on your computer, and keep them up to date. You need all three.
Almost all modern Routers (Dlink, LinkSys, NetGear, Buffalo, Airlink, etc.)
have a hardware firewall built in. See the left side of this page for the
current recommendation for ant-virus / anti-malware programs.
- Don't put outgoing mail in or on
your mailbox. Drop it into a secure,
official Postal Service collection
box. Thieves may use your mail to
steal your identity.
- If regular bills fail to reach
you, call the company to find out
why. Someone may have filed a false
change-of-address notice to divert
your information to his or her
- If your bills include suspicious
charges, don't ignore them. Instead,
investigate immediately to head off
any possible fraud before it occurs.
- Check your credit report regularly. Federal law allows you
to obtain one from credit report from each of the 3 major credit reporting
agencies per year. See this
page for more information.
- There are
services online, some free, such as
SneakMail that provide you with disposable addresses that can be
deleted if they begin to receive spam messages. The disposable email
addresses forwards email to a real email address of yours, but the sender
can not see this. If you create a unique address for each email newsletter
or forum you subscribe to you can discard the address is it gets too
much spam and just start using another email address.
- NEVER buy anything from a company that sends you spam. Don't even visit
their sites or ask for more information. It is like feeding a stray cat.
Give it one morsel of food, and it will be there all the time (and that may
be fine with cats, but NO one wants spammers at the doorstep!).
Remember, since they send out millions of spam emails, they only need a tiny
fraction of responses to be profitable.
And if that doesn't convince you, consider this: the vast majority of spam
"offers" are in fact scams!
- Set up filters in your email program. Outlook does this quite
easily. When you open an email and realize that it is spam, just click on
Actions then Create Rule, then select an appropriate action, such as "from"
then click "Move e-mail to folder" and select the "Deleted Items" folder.
That's it! You'll never receive email from that particular address or
subject again! More
anti-spam filtering tips and information.
- If you have a website, do not post your address in the HTML "mail-to"
format, otherwise you will be
spammed, since address-harvesting spiders (programs) extract your email
address from the website and add it to the spammer's lists. Instead
use feedback forms through PHP, ASP, or JSP that hide the email address, OR
post the email address as a GIF (image file).
- Check out this list of
tips on evaluating email, letters and phone calls you receive for
- Finally, if it seems to good to be true... IT IS! No one is going
to send you a pile of money from a dead Nigerian president, no lottery is
going to make you a winner from a "randomly selected from a database of
email addresses". Multi-level marketing IS A SCAM, ALL psychics are
nothing more than conmen, and you can not make big money from "passive
residual income in a few hours of your spare time each day". And there is no
Resources lists and guides -
lists of domain extensions for other countries, telephone country codes,
area codes, etc.
The bottom line
is, if you want to live like a Prince or Princess in a fairy tale, then use
common sense, work hard and work smart to achieve your