1. Medicare Data Breach
Last month Medicare announced that one of their contractors had been hacked and the personal information of 612,000 Medicare beneficiaries were stolen. The security breach put Social Security numbers, birth dates, driver’s license numbers, health insurance claims, medical history notes, prescription information and other personally identifiable information at risk.
Anyone whose information was compromised in the breach will be notified by Medicare and offered two years of free credit monitoring. However, even if your data weren’t stolen, this incident reminds us all of one stark reality – we have little control over much of our personal data.
So many companies and government entities have our personal data and so many have been hacked in the past that the most practical thing for people to do is assume that your information is out there and take the necessary precautions. Two things you can do to protect against ID fraud are to check your credit reports regularly for suspicious activity (www.annualcreditreport.com
), and be sure that you are using strong and unique passwords for all websites and storing them securely.
2. Tech Support Scams Trending
Some of the top scams are the ones that have been around the longest. One might think that a crime like the tech support scam, which has been around for 15 years, might fade away but it is more common than ever. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, the tech support scam was reported by nearly 18,000 victims who had a combined $588 million stolen from them last year.
These scams start with an unsolicited phone call or a pop-up alert on your device, claiming to be from Microsoft, Norton, or another related company warning of grave problems. The goal is to persuade you to allow them to remotely connect with your device where they can convince you they find something terrible. They are actually seeking to install malware to harvest personal information and logins, creating ways to get back into your device or convincing you to pay for expensive repair and protection – all of which is fake.
Bottom line, the urgent phone call or popup message is a sham. Don’t answer (or hang up immediately if you do), and to rid your screen of the message, exit out of your browser, power down your device or do a hard shut down. Keeping your operating systems and security software up to date is an important way to keep real viruses and malware out.
3. Employment Scams Haven’t Gone Away
When it comes to the labor market, the supply of jobs is outpacing demand but that doesn’t mean that employment scams have gone away. Just because there are more job openings than job seekers doesn’t mean that criminals have closed up shop. With many Americans looking for a side hustle to help make ends meet or an opportunity to make more money or work remotely, there are still enough potential victims to fuel these schemes.
Here's what you need to know to avoid employment scams. Beware of any job that offers a large income with little to no training or experience. Business offers that are guaranteed to “pay off quickly” or “double your investment” are also highly suspicious. Lastly, avoid any job offer which requires you to pay in advance for certification, training or materials.
Many of these employment scams are advertised as “work from home” which is particularly dangerous with so many people looking for these opportunities. Before accepting any work from home position, do your homework and ensure that the company you are agreeing to work for is indeed a legitimate one.
4. Celebrity Impostor Scams
This October is National Cyber Security month and AARP is focused on shining a light on the most prevalent online scams including celebrity impostors. Stars like Bruce Springsteen, Trace Adkins and Oprah Winfrey are among thousands of celebrities whose personas have been used by scammers online to solicit money from fans.
These days, celebrities share career news, personal views, even travel videos on social media and interact with fans in comment threads. Criminal scammers take advantage of that by trying to convince fans that they have special direct access to that celebrity online. The way it works is a fan will get a direct message out of the blue from a favorite musician, actor or athlete. They will send out tens of thousands of these messages knowing that while most people will be skeptical — it only takes one person who is excited to make money.
While the ask might vary between money for charity or an investment opportunity or limited access event and even love, it is always a scam. Remember, never share your personal information with or send money to someone you don’t know and have only communicated with online, no matter how supposedly famous they are.