As we head into the festive season, you’ve probably had enough stress in 2020 to last you a lifetime. But wait––yet another wrench has been thrown in this challenging year! Fraud has spiked during the pandemic, with criminals upping their game as consumers shift into Christmas shopping mode. Read on for five powerful fraud-fighting tips to help you break out of the 2020 doldrums and end the year with a little less stress!
Like COVID, Investment and Purchase scams are rampant
The fraud problem has gone viral – with companies reporting an increase in business email compromise and consumers reporting new purchase and investment scams.
Criminals are trying to take advantage of the recent Covid 19 pandemic and the historically low interest rates by cold calling people using pressure tactics to hook people in. Beware of the variety of channels they are leveraging across social media, email, letters and web search engines. If it looks too good to be true, it normally is.
When it comes to fraud, such as account takeover, consumers should know that banks are on your side. However, prevention is critical, particularly when it comes to identity theft, because the clean-up can be quite difficult and messy, and recovering stolen funds can be a tedious, months-long process. Card fraud is more quickly resolved, but you may still have to go through the hassle of having transactions declined and filing a fraud claim with your bank or card provider.
To reduce your risk of being a victim of any of these crimes, here are my five top tips to protect yourself against fraud this holiday season.
Tip #1: Revisit your password habits
We are all pretty aware of the concept of strong passwords, mixing lowercase letters, capitals, numbers, and symbols. But let me challenge you to change your thinking, because it turns out that long passwords are even more important than strong passwords. The length and strength of a password combined, is the strongest deterrent to a hacker cracking your password with brute-force computing power.
It is also important is to use a unique password for each of your accounts, particularly important ones—not just bank accounts, but PayPal, Gmail and Amazon, everything! I cannot overemphasize the effectiveness – and elegant simplicity - of browser-based password managers that suggest randomized long, strong passwords, and manage them for you.
Tip #2: Take advantage of additional authentication features
I highly recommend using any additional authentication capabilities offered by apps and websites you visit frequently; they’re a critical layer of protection so take a moment to strengthen your credentials. The easiest type to use is a one-time use passcode, which can be texted, or emailed or pushed via an app. You can also use hard token code generators where they still exist.
Face and fingerprint biometrics are increasingly popular too, particularly for banking and financial apps. If an app has a biometrics capability (like on your iPhone), use it.
Tip #3: Use trusted payment methods
New payment apps are cool, but be careful. Do your research, read the reviews, and check Google carefully to see if the app is a scam. If in doubt, use well established methods like SnapScan, PayPal, Apple Pay, Zapper and any other local providers.
If you’re sending cash from your online or mobile banking app, and you need to send money to a new recipient, think about doing a test transaction with a small amount of money and ask that person to confirm they got it.
Tip #4: Be skeptical
It's the season of giving —during a pandemic—which multiplies the opportunities for fraudsters to try to scam you. Although GoFundMe states that “the overwhelming majority of fundraisers on our platform are safe and legitimate,” scams do happen there and many other places. Unfortunately, not every scam is identified and prosecuted; unless you personally know the person or family benefiting from a contribution, or can verify that the recipient’s identity and need, think twice (hard) before you donate.
To protect yourself from charity and disaster relief fraud (such as relief funds that spring up after hurricanes and wildfires), make sure the donation website is legitimate. It’s very easy for criminals to create lookalike websites that siphon off credit card and personal information, which can then be quickly used to run up fraudulent transactions. The SAPS has a very useful tip sheet to help you spot potential scams.
In these difficult times more people are unemployed at the end of the year than in the start. Be careful of employment scams where people pretend to offer a job, ask you to pay for a fee, like a criminal and credit check, never do them, keep the money and decline your job application. Companies very rarely ask the candidate to pay for such things!
Tip #5: Monitor your credit report and your bank balance regularly
Everyone––and I mean everyone––needs to monitor their credit reports and their finances. Not just to stay informed about credit history, but also help spot anything suspicious sooner. By monitoring your credit history as a consumer you will be able to spot impersonation fraud and monitoring your business accounts could help stop things like bounce back loan fraud.
Written by Liz lasher, Vice President of Fraud, Financial Crime and Cyber Risk Portfolio Marketing at FICO