Scams ahoy – how even you could get conned

Change your passwords right now. I mean it. Virtually none of us change our passwords as often as we should. Do you use the same password for more than one bank? Even worse, are you one of the many Kiwis who use “password” as their password for many sites? Are you getting the picture?

Everyday people like you and me are targeted by scammers. They hope they’ll be cleverer than us and make hundreds or even thousands of dollars because we’re so honest and unsuspecting.

What would you think if you lost every last dollar from your bank account? I know it would make me sick. If you want to avoid it, here are some cyber security rules to follow:

Rule one: Don’t recycle your passwords.

Recycling is good when it comes to glass, plastic, newspapers and all sorts of things. Just not your internet passwords. The Adobe hack was a perfect example of that. Hackers got millions of people’s email addresses, Adobe passwords, and other identifying information and released it to scammers. Many of the victims had used the same passwords for the Adobe site as their banks. That’s scary.

If you really must reuse passwords for day-to-day websites, make sure that your bank passwords and any others where you could be ripped-off such as Trade Me are unique.

Rule two: Your email is dangerous in the wrong hands.

If hackers get your email password they can use it to reset bank and other passwords. We’ve all seen the “forgot your password” link. You click on it and they send a new password to your email. If a hacker has control of the email account, it’s payday for them. The other thing to beware of is emails from scammers. They may appear to come from your bank, suggest you have won millions in the lottery that you haven’t entered, tell you that a long lost relative has left you money, or you’re needed to help a business transaction go through for which you’ll be rewarded. Switch your brain on. Do you really think this is going to happen?

Rule three: Avoid identity theft at all costs.

Identify theft is a pain. The scammers don’t get into your account, but they open up credit in your name such as store or credit cards. They can do it because they’ve found out your name, date of birth and address and may have stolen documents such as bank statements in your name. They may have used this to find out your IRD number or other information. The first you know is that your credit record has a black mark on it, or you get debt collectors chasing you. Don’t be victim. Never share personal information online or with strangers.

Rule four: Protect your smart phone.

Don’t forget your smart phone. That banking tool in your pocket is at risk. Everyone should have their phone password protected. Sadly you also need to have anti-virus software and a firewall on your phone as well to avoid being fleeced.

Rule five: Don’t let cupid take over your brain.

Kiwis are being scammed out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by dating scammers – many of whom come from my own country Russia as well as the Ukraine and West Africa. It’s very easy to spot. You meet an overseas-based man or woman on the Internet who ‘falls in love’ with you. Lo and behold your new found loved one needs money for a visa and tickets to come to New Zealand or must have loans paid off before leaving. If someone you’ve met online needs money to come and visit you it’s a con. Here is the case of a real Kiwi who was conned this way. Beware as well of being a “mule” or getting sucked into a flatting scam.

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