It is more important than ever for Pennsylvania consumers to be informed and on the lookout for financial scams. Scammers have become more brazen in their actions to take personal and financial information from consumers. We are all at risk to falling victim to a scam.
This is especially true right now. Criminals often take advantage of current events and have found ways to exploit the coronavirus pandemic, including contact tracing scams and unemployment benefits fraud. As technology and scam artists become more sophisticated and more of our personal and professional lives are moving online, the Department of Banking and Securities (DoBS) wants Pennsylvanians to know the techniques that criminals use to steal money and personal information through various digital channels.
Red Flags of Fake Websites
As many Pennsylvanians have changed their summer shopping to online stores, consumers are using the internet for a variety of purchases. It is important to be cautious when clicking hyperlinks to make sure the website is not spoofing a legitimate website. Just because the website may look like the real thing, does not mean it is. Pay attention to your spelling – a minor typo when entering a web address or clicking on a link in an unsolicited email advertisement can lead fake websites used to steal private financial information.
Always make sure to verify the website you are visiting is correct by utilizing bookmarks to your favorite websites and making sure any e-mails you receive are in fact from a correct e-mail address. Keep your information safe online by only entering credit card information when you see "https" at the beginning of the URL address.
Check your credit report and freeze your credit.
It is important to review your credit report for any fraudulent information or activities and take steps to correct any errors found. Information contained in your credit report can impact many aspects of your life such as gaining employment, getting a loan, obtaining insurance, or applying to rent an apartment or buy a home.
Freezing your credit can stop criminals from stealing your personal information and opening credit cards or applying for loans in your name. If you do freeze your credit account, it does not impact your credit score. Pennsylvanians can obtain credit reports and free credit freezes from three major credit reporting companies: TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax.
Here are some other tips to help protect your finances and your credit:
Avoid scams and fraud
Education is important to protecting yourself, or your loved ones, and for making decisions that improve your financial well-being. Pennsylvanians can learn more about ways to protect your financial information by visiting the commonwealth cybersecurity guide, "Protecting Yourself Online."
If you have fallen victim to a scam, you are not alone. Often, victims feel ashamed because they placed their trust in someone who stole from them and may not report the fraud. But victims must report the fraud to provide information for further investigation.
If you believe you or a loved one have fallen victim to a scam, contact local law enforcement. Anyone can contact DoBS at 1-800-PA-BANKS or 1-800-722-2657 to ask questions or file complaints about financial transactions, companies, or products.