Over 40 Lochmere residents learned a LOT about how best to avoid being a victim of fraud, identity theft and scams at the November 4th entertaining and informative discussion with Ms. Caroline Farmer from the NC Attorney General's Office. In addition to a lively discussion on several topics, Ms. Farmer also distributed informational packets from the Attorney General's office on a wide range of scams and frauds to each attendee.
Ms. Farmer began by inviting folks to safely discard any old (appropriate for destruction) documents that contain personal information at the Town of Cary's free, upcoming shredding event on November 14. Then, the discussion grew quite interactive, as Ms. Farmer described the best and the worst ways to manage computer passwords. Strong password suggestions included the use of reputable password management software, or utilizing an entire sentence or favorite quote, or using special characters within the password in lieu of alphabetic characters (ex. use an "@" instead of an "a"). Other suggestions for safe computing included:
- using a different password for each online account you have
- ASK what the the network name is at every public place you visit. Don't assume that the open network you see at a public place (like Starbucks) is legitimate, even if its name looks appropriate. It could be a fake network, used to compromise your security!
- Don't click on any links embedded in emails, unless you are certain that it comes from a reputable source. Verify before you click! Survey links, delivery date links, and coupon links are ruses frequently used during the upcoming holiday season. Keep in mind that even the email sender may have been hacked.
- Don't keep your passwords written down in your desk drawer, posted on your computer screen, etc.
- Consider putting a Security Freeze on your credit reports. Please check the link for the details on this topic.
Farmer then described several phone scams recently reported, and urged folks to share information about these scams with their friends and neighbors so that no one becomes a scam victim. Phone calls from "the IRS" are commonly-reported scams. Farmer reports that the IRS never contacts taxpayers by telephone. Calls that include threats such as "a warrant for your arrest will be issued if you don't send money / call back / provide information", or "your house doesn't meet code" are all scams. Scammers can even change the caller ID (have you gotten a call from yourself like that?!). These too, are scams. Calls or emails that warn of a virus on your computer, or indicate that you are need a Microsoft update are also very common scams used to gain control of your computer and hold it for ransom, or for gaining access to your personal information. Other scams described included bogus calls from "the hospital", asking to verify insurance information. In all cases, consumers are urged to simply hang up the phone or delete the scam email. Be very wary of any and all personal information that you are asked to share as a result of a phone call or an email.
Other pertinent and timely information on these topics can be found at nc.doj.gov. To check out a questionable email, phone call, mailing or to report a scam, call the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or file a complaint online at ncdoj.gov.
Cary Police, including Captain Kevin Tingen, also attended the event and reminded residents of important safety tips for the upcoming holiday season.