Be alert: Be alert to the fact that scams exist. When dealing with uninvited contacts from people or businesses, whether it’s over the phone, by mail, email, in-person or on a social networking site, always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Do your research: Know who you’re dealing with. If you’ve only ever met someone online or are unsure of the legitimacy of a business, take some time to do a bit more research. Do a Google image search on photos or search the internet for others who may have had dealings with them. If a message or email comes from a friend and it seems unusual or out of character for them, contact your friend directly to check that it was really them who sent it.
Avoid suspicious texts: Do not open suspicious texts, pop-up windows or click-on links or attachments in emails — delete them: If unsure, verify the identity of the contact through an independent source such as a phone book or online search. Don’t use the contact details provided in the message sent to you.
Remote access: Don’t respond to phone calls about your computer asking for remote access — hang up even if they mention a well-known company. Scammers will often ask you to turn on your computer to fix a problem or install a free upgrade, which is actually a virus that will give them your passwords and personal details.
Lock mailbox: Keep your personal details secure. Put a lock on your mailbox and shred your bills and other important documents before throwing them out.
Keep passwords safe: Keep your passwords and PIN numbers in a safe place. Be very careful about how much personal information you share on social media sites. Scammers can use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
Safeguard devices: Keep your mobile devices and computers secure. Always use password protection, don’t share access with others (including remotely), keep updating security software and backing up content. Install mobile security software and keep it up to date. Don’t forget to install updates for your device operating system and banking app too as they become available.
WiFi safety: Protect your WiFi network with a password and avoid using public computers or Wi-Fi hotspots to access online banking or provide personal information. Don’t carry out sensitive financial transactions using public Wi-Fi or unknown public networks, which makes you vulnerable — you never know who may be poking around and watching what you’re doing online.
Update passwords: Choose your passwords carefully. Use passwords that would be difficult for others to guess and update them regularly. A strong password should include a mix of upper- and lower- case letters, numbers and symbols. Don’t use the same password for every account/profile, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
Review privacy: Review your privacy and security settings on social media. If you use social networking sites, such as Facebook, be careful who you connect with and learn how to use your privacy and security settings to ensure you stay safe. If you recognise suspicious behaviour, have clicked on spam or have been scammed online, take steps to secure your account and be sure to report it.
Beware of requests: Beware of any requests for your details or money. Never send money or give credit-card details, online account details or copies of personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust. Don’t agree to transfer money or goods for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence. Be wary of unusual payment requests. Scammers will often ask you to use an unusual payment method, including preloaded debit cards, gift cards, iTunes cards or virtual currency such as bitcoin.
Online safety: Be careful when shopping online. Beware of offers that seem too good to be true, and always use an online shopping service that you know and trust. Think twice before using virtual currencies (like bitcoin) — they do not have the same protections as other transaction methods, which means you can’t get your money back once you send it.
The writer is the Chief Information Officer at UAB