February 21, 2020, 1:16 PM
You may be skeptical when someone you don’t know sends you a text message you didn’t expect and it tells you to click on a link. Maybe that little voice in your head starts talking to you. I know mine does. It says, “Hmm, this could be a scam. Maybe someone wants to steal my personal information. Or get me to pay for something.”
I guess that's why scammers come up with new stories all the time, like a package tracking scam we're hearing about. Here's how it works.
Scammers send a text message with a fake shipment tracking code and a link to update your delivery preferences. In this case, the message says it’s from FedEx.
But they might use the name of another well-known shipping company, or the good old U.S. Postal Service.
Cue that skeptical little voice in your head. Here’s what it might be thinking:
- “Was I expecting a package delivery?”
- “Did I send a package to someone?”
- “Did I ask for text notifications?”
Tip: If you get an unexpected text message, don’t click on any links. If you think it could be legit, contact the company using a website or phone number you know is real. Don’t use the information in the text message.
In this version of the scam the link takes you to a fake Amazon website. There, you're invited to take a customer satisfaction survey. And you might just win a free prize. But to get it, you have to give them your credit card number to pay for shipping.
Hopefully that wise little voice in your head is thinking:
- “I shouldn't have clicked that link!”
- “Why would a link to my package delivery preferences take me to an unrelated website?”
- “You said the prize was free, but now I need to pay. What else am I agreeing to pay for?”
- “I really shouldn’t have clicked on that link!”
Tip: Some companies offer so-called “free trials” that come with hidden costs. Here’s what you should consider before you sign up for a free trial offer.
Scammers may be turning to text messages as a new tactic. But there’s a lot you can do right now to protect yourself. Read How to Recognize and Report Spam Text Messages to learn what to do about spam text messages and how to report them.
Source: Federal Trade Commission
January 29, 2020, 9:01 AM
What are the risks associated with mobile device apps?
Applications (apps) on your smartphone or other mobile devices can be convenient tools to access the news, get directions, pick up a ride share, or play games. But these tools can also put your privacy at risk. When you download an app, it may ask for permission to access personal information—such as email contacts, calendar inputs, call logs, and location data—from your device. Apps may gather this information for legitimate purposes—for example, a ride-share app will need your location data in order to pick you up. However, you should be aware that app developers will have access to this information and may share it with third parties, such as companies who develop targeted ads based on your location and interests.
How can you avoid malicious apps and limit the information apps collect about you?
Before installing an app
- Avoid potentially harmful apps (PHAs). Reduce the risk of downloading PHAs by limiting your download sources to official app stores, such as your device’s manufacturer or operating system app store. Do not download from unknown sources or install untrusted enterprise certificates. Additionally—because malicious apps have been known to slip through the security of even reputable app stores—always read the reviews and research the developer before downloading and installing an app.
On already installed apps
- Review app permissions. Review the permissions each app has. Ensure your installed apps only have access to the information they need, and remove unnecessary permissions from each app. Consider removing apps with excessive permissions. Pay special attention to apps that have access to your contact list, camera, storage, location, and microphone.
- Limit location permissions. Some apps have access to the mobile device’s location services and thus have access to the user’s approximate physical location. For apps that require access to location data to function, consider limiting this access to when the app is in use only.
- Keep app software up to date. Apps with out-of-date software may be at risk of exploitation of known vulnerabilities. Protect your mobile device from malware by installing app updates as they are released.
- Delete apps you do not need. To avoid unnecessary data collection, uninstall apps you no longer use.
- Be cautious with signing into apps with social network accounts. Some apps are integrated with social network sites—in these cases, the app can collect information from your social network account and vice versa. Ensure you are comfortable with this type of information sharing before you sign into an app via your social network account. Alternatively, use your email address and a unique password to sign in.
What additional steps can you take to secure data on your mobile devices?
Source: U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- Limit activities on public Wi-Fi networks. Public Wi-Fi networks at places such as airports and coffee shops present an opportunity for attackers to intercept sensitive information. When using a public or unsecured wireless connection, avoid using apps and websites that require personal information, e.g., a username and password. Additionally, turn off the Bluetooth setting on your devices when not in use. (See Cybersecurity for Electronic Devices.)
- Be cautious when charging. Avoid connecting your smartphone to any computer or charging station that you do not control, such as a charging station at an airport terminal or a shared computer at a library. Connecting a mobile device to a computer using a USB cable can allow software running on that computer to interact with the phone in ways you may not anticipate. For example, a malicious computer could gain access to your sensitive data or install new software. (See Holiday Traveling with Personal Internet-Enabled Devices.)
- Protect your device from theft. Having physical access to a device makes it easier for an attacker to extract or corrupt information. Do not leave your device unattended in public or in easily accessible areas.
- Protect your data if your device is stolen. Ensure your device requires a password or biometric identifier to access it, so if is stolen, thieves will have limited access to its data. (See Choosing and Protecting Passwords.) If your device is stolen, immediately contact your service provider to protect your data. (See the Federal Communications Commission’s Consumer Guide: Protect Your Smart Device.)
January 29, 2020, 8:56 AM
Each year, the FTC takes a hard look at the number of reports people make to our Consumer Sentinel Network. In fact, during 2019, we got more than 3.2 million reports to the FTC from you. We’ve read what you’ve said, and crunched the numbers. Here’s what you told us in 2019.
- Imposter scams was the number one fraud reported to Sentinel in 2019. People reported losing more than $667 million to imposters, who often pretended to be calling from the government or a well-known business, a romantic interest, or a family member with an emergency. When people lost money, they most frequently reported paying scammers with a gift card.
- Social Security imposters were the top government imposter scam reported. There were 166,190 reports about the Social Security scam, and the median individual loss was $1,500.
- Phone calls were the number one way people reported being contacted by scammers. While most people said they hung up on those calls, those who lost money reported a median loss of $1,000 in 2019.
You might wonder what, besides these numbers, comes out of reporting scams and other consumer issues to the FTC. Well, because of your reports, the FTC and its law enforcement partners are able to investigate the people and companies that trick people into paying money. Your reports help build and bring those cases, which also helps us enforce laws that stop scams and other dishonest business practices that take people’s money.
In fact, during 2019, FTC law enforcement actions led to more than $232 million in refunds to people who lost money. More than 1.9 million people cashed checks mailed by the FTC. And, in the last four years, people have cashed more than one billion dollars in FTC refund checks. That’s real money back into people’s pockets.
Source: Federal Trade Commission
November 20, 2019, 11:34 AM
Keep your holiday shopping merry and bright with an early gift from the Federal Trade Commission: tips to help you watch your wallet, shop wisely, and protect your personal information.
Source; Federal Trade Commission
- Make a list and a budget. Those impulse purchases (looking at you, cozy sweater) are less tempting when you have a game plan. Consider how much you’re willing to put on your credit card, and how long it might take to pay it off. If money’s tight, paying for a gift over time through layaway might help.
- Do your research. Read reviews and recommendations about the product, seller, and warranties from sources you trust. If you’re shopping online, check for reports that items were never delivered or not as advertised. Spreading holiday cheer by donating to charity or a crowdfunding cause? Look into it first to make sure it’s legitimate.
- Look for the best deals. Check out websites that compare prices for items online and at your local stores. Remember there may be shipping costs for online orders. Look for coupon codes by searching the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” To save extra money, keep an eye out for rebates.
- Keep track of your purchases. Make sure the scanned price is right, and save all your receipts. If you shop online, keep copies of your order number, the refund and return policies, and shipping costs. Then have your packages delivered to a secure location or pick them up at a local store. Treat gift cards like cash and keep them in safe place.
- Give gifts, not personal information. Protect yourself online by shopping only on secure websites with an “https” address. Stick to shopping apps that tell you what they do with your data and how they keep it secure. Avoid holiday offers that ask you to give financial information – no matter how tempting. They might be trying to steal your identity.
November 19, 2019, 4:48 PM
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has released an article with tips on how to protect personal information before trading in a mobile phone for a newer model. FTC recommends the following four steps to safeguard these devices:
- Back up data.
- Remove SIM and SD cards.
- Erase personal information.
- Verify deletion of personal information.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) encourages consumers to review the FTC article for additional resources on how to perform each of the suggested steps and see CISA’s Tip on Proper Disposal of Electronic Devices for more information.
Source: Cyber Infrastructure
October 28, 2019, 3:27 PM
The Internal Revenue Service today urged families and teens to stay vigilant in protecting personal information while connected to the internet. Although the IRS is making huge strides in fighting identity theft and thwarting fraudulent tax returns, help is needed.
During National Work and Family Month, IRS is asking parents and families to be mindful of all the pitfalls that can be found by sharing devices at home, shopping online and through navigating various social media platforms. Often, those who are less experienced can put themselves and others at risk by leaving an unnecessary trail of personal information for fraudsters.
The IRS has joined with representatives of the software industry, tax preparation firms, payroll and tax financial product processors and state tax administrators to combat identity theft refund fraud to protect the nation's taxpayers. This group, the Security Summit, has found methods to help reduce fraudulent tax returns entering tax processing systems.
Staying safe online
Here are a few common-sense suggestions that can make a difference for children, teens and those who are less experienced:
Source: IRS Blog
- Remind them why security is important. People of all ages should not reveal too much information about themselves. Keeping data secure and only providing what is necessary minimizes online exposure to scammers and criminals. Birthdates, addresses, age and especially Social Security numbers are among things that should not be shared freely.
- Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections. Make sure the security software is always turned on and can automatically update. Encrypt sensitive files such as tax records stored on computers. Use strong, unique passwords for each account. Be sure all family members have comprehensive protection especially if devices are being shared.
- Teach them to recognize and avoid scams. Phishing emails, threatening phone calls and texts from thieves posing as IRS or from legitimate organizations pose risks. Do not click on links or download attachments from unknown or suspicious emails.
- Protect personal data. Don't routinely carry a Social Security card. Keep it at home. Be sure any financial records are secure. Advise children and teens to shop at reputable online retailers. Treat personal information like cash; don't leave it lying around.
- Teach them about public Wi-Fi networks. Connection to Wi-Fi in a mall or coffee shop is convenient but it may not be safe. Hackers and cybercriminals can easily intercept personal information. Always use a virtual private network when connecting to public Wi-Fi.