Shredding Blog

Illustration of a phishing scam

10 Easy Ways to Protect Yourself from Fraud

In 2018, fraud in New Jersey claimed an average of $362 from each victim.  The the state ranks 12th in the nation for the frequency of identity theft. Online and offline scams can pop up when you least expect them, which can make them compelling and easy to fall for, no matter how savvy you think you are. In October 2019, a tech law expert fell for a phone-based phishing scam and only just managed to recognize it for what it was. It’s impossible to prepare for every possible scam attempt, but there are some steps you can take to minimize your risk.

1.  Learn to Recognize Bait

Surprise! You just won a trip to Jamaica from a travel company you never heard of in a sweepstakes you never entered!

Sure, maybe that didn’t fool you, but not all bait is that easy to recognize. Scammers have many different methods of trying to pry information from you. Winning a prize you never applied for is one method, but they might also pose as a friend, family member, or financial institution, sending you a strange link or requesting emergency funds or fees over the phone.

Before you send any money or book your plane, always independently verify that the message is legitimate. If an email looks suspicious, send it straight to the trash folder.

2. Change Your Passwords Regularly

Passwords are one of the most vulnerable pieces of online data, and they’re also one of the most poorly protected. 51% of people reuse around five passwords for business and personal accounts, and 67% of people don’t use any two-factor authentication at all for personal accounts.

If a hacker gains access to your email account, they’ve also gained access to every other account associated with that email. Change your passwords regularly, and make sure they’re strong (long, complex, and with a mixture of capital letters, numbers, and symbols).

3. If It’s Not HTTPS, Don’t Go There

HTTPS stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, and it lets you know that your connection is safe. When you access a website through a standard HTTP connection, it’s not encrypted. HTTPS adds an extra layer of protection, making it hard for scammers to eavesdrop on your online activity.

If a link you click on has HTTP in front of it, think twice before entering any personal information.

4. Be Aware of the Latest Scams

The FTC has a constantly-updating list of the newest scams going around, and it’s worth your time to stay current with them. From phone calls threatening to take away your Social Security benefits to mailbox invitations to expensive workshops on flipping houses, there’s no end to the creativity that scammers employ.

By staying aware of the latest innovations in the world of trying to steal your money or your information, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and worry, and you’ll recognize a scam when you see it.

5. Quit Treating Personal Information Carelessly

You’d be surprised by the damage that can be done with only a name and a birth-date, but those are two pieces of information that those cute little online quizzes frequently ask for. Add in a middle name and an address, and the damage can be very serious. If your birth-date really doesn’t have any bearing on the information you’re trying to access, don’t give it out. The same goes for your address, name, and any other personal details. This can be challenging, especially in a world that thrives on social media, but a bit of diligence on your part can make it much harder for a scammer to get the information they’re looking for.

This caution extends into the physical world, too. Before you throw out any papers or envelopes containing anything personal – even a signature – make sure that it’s shredded first. For the best security, consider asking a professional paper shredding service to destroy your documents and securely transport them to a local recycling plant.

6. Just Say No to Weird Phone Calls

You receive a call from a number you don’t recognize. The voice on the other end tells you that your computer’s been compromised, but don’t worry – they can fix it if you just let them remotely connect. Or maybe the caller claims to be from the government or your bank and informs you that you have an outstanding fee that needs to be paid – or else. One particularly clever phone scam opens with the caller asking if you can hear them. If you respond with a “yes,” they record this response and use it to gain access to your bank accounts.

In all these cases, all you must do is hang up without a word. If you worry that the call might have been legitimate, investigate on your own through a verified channel.

7. Yes, Asking for Payment by Gift Card is Weird

In 2019, the market share of online sales was higher than in-store purchases for the first time in history. Reputable retailers can accept payment via credit card or an online payment processor, but if someone asks for payment in, say, bitcoin or preloaded gift cards, you might want to back away. These forms of currency are hard to track and allow a scammer to skip away with your money without any way for you to find them again.

8. If it Sounds Too Good to be True, It Is

Maybe a postcard says you can start making easy money, right in your own neighborhood, if only you pay a few thousand for the required training course. Perhaps a letter says that you’re eligible for a gift card, free of charge, if you just provide your name, address, and birth-date for verification. Everyone hopes for a bit of luck to come their way. However, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

9. No One Needs to Know Your First Pet’s Name (Except Scammers)

An easy pitfall, especially when posting on social media platforms, is oversharing. You might be happy to share your thoughts on your favorite book, not remembering that it’s a common security question. Perhaps you reminisce about your first pet or share the name and location of the hotel you’ve just booked for your next vacation. All these details provide scammers with the extra proof they need to lie their way into your accounts. Think critically about what you post, and about how it could be used.

Similarly, take care with the personal information you put in the physical trash. Did you receive a card or a letter from a friend, referring to you by a nickname or referencing a shared memory? If you won’t be holding onto it for sentimental reasons, use a paper shredding service to safely dispose of the information in a way that trash thieves won’t be able to access or reconstruct.

You’ll also be protecting your friend – remember, scammers find their address and signature just as appealing as yours.

10. Quit Using Unlocked Public WiFi for Confidential Stuff

Public WiFi can be a great resource if you’re pulling up a map to the nearest gas station, but it can also present an opportunity for data theft. Resist the urge to do any shopping or banking on unsecured public networks, since that information could be visible to anyone else connected to the same network. Wait until you have access to a private, password-protected Wi-Fi source.

Your online safety is something you can directly influence, and for physical documents, there are services available to protect the information contained on those pages. In our shredding programs, we make sure to cross-cut all documents, which are nearly impossible to put back together (unlike the single strands that come out of department store shredders). We also take it a step further by directly transporting all remaining paper shreds to a facility for recycling. After all, you can’t put a page back together if it’s been processed into something else.

For more information on the paper shredding services we provide, give us a call at (973) 734-1911 or contact us online for a free service quote.

Do You Already Have A Shredding Service? We Will Beat Our Competitors’ Rates!

Contact us with the details of your shredding needs and we will provide an immediate quote.

Request A Quote