Elliott Greenblott: Fraud Watch: Stay vigilant against Facebook and phone scams

Whether by phone or computer, there is a marked increase in the activity of scammers. The latest attacks threaten virtually everyone regardless of age, gender, or any other demographic. On Sept. 28, social media giant Facebook announced a security breach affecting over 50,000,000 individual accounts. Hackers stole "access tokens" that allow users to stay logged into accounts. Facebook profiles were compromised, allowing criminals the ability to use personal and contact information from Facebook as an easy log in entrance to many shopping or social media accounts.

Of potentially greater damage is the possibility that credit card accounts linked to Facebook accounts may have been revealed. This event should be taken as a wake-up call to all users of social media and there are a number of suggested steps that should be taken. Immediately reset your passwords. Create pass phrases. I use song titles like "I am a Rock." As a password, it becomes 1@maR0ck. If I need a longer password I fill with alternating numbers. (You can always use commercial password generating software). Consider this a good time to review all of your access passwords. Clearly, do not use the same password/passcode for multiple accounts. Decouple your Facebook login from logins to other accounts. Facebook does not believe other sites were hacked but it is better to be safe rather than sorry. Finally, enable two factor authentication where possible. This feature requires inputting a code that is sent to a separate device, often a phone and account access can not occur without its entry. Also, be proactive with any children, including teenagers, who have social media accounts as they often post personal information.

Delete any credit card numbers in your Facebook account. Yes, it can be tedious to enter the information when making purchases but security outweighs convenience. Contact credit card companies to request new account numbers if numbers were available in your Facebook account.

Check Facebook account "Settings" to review your login history. Remove any unknown devices that are listed to keep them from logging into your account. This is also a good time to review the information you have posted in social media. Criminals find posted data to be a gold mine of information: family names, events such as anniversaries and birthdays, travel plans, new purchases, illnesses. All of this information can be used to create affinity scams. And while you are at it, review your "Friends" list to see if you actually know those who are listed and delete those you do not know.

While the situation with Facebook is very recent, there continues to be a rising level of fraudulent telephone calls. According to one source, C|NET, a respected technology source, by the end of 2019, 50 percent of all cell phone calls will be scams. Do any of these sound familiar: You are eligible for a free back brace; consolidate your credit card debt; your automobile warranty is about to expire; you are eligible for a free vacation; this is the IRS calling because of a problem with your tax payment; your computer has been infected by a virus and requires maintenance; hello Grandpa, it's your grandson calling and I'm in jail.

These calls have some similarities: many are computer generated robocalls; they target emotional topics (family, health, finances); they rely on impersonation; THEY ARE SCAMS. There is one other common factor: law enforcement is virtually powerless to combat them. While for most of us these calls tend to be a nuisance, they have resulted in con-artists walking away with thousands of dollars. What should you do:

1) DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE if you do not recognize the number. SPOOFING — use of alternate phone numbers allows for untraceable numbers. If you answer,

2) HANG UP. Don't engage in small talk or conversation. These generally are professional criminals and at best you are an amateur detective. Any details you provide can be used against you in the future. If you don't hang up,

3) NEVER PROVIDE PAYMENT. No legitimate authority requests money orders or gift card payments.

Questions or concerns? Contact

egreenblott@aarp.org Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator who serves as the Vermont AARP Fraud Watch Network Coordinator.


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