Protect yourself from scams and fraudulent schemes

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a list of 23 common fraud schemes on its “Scams and Safety” web page, including credit card theft.

How does this happen?

The thief makes small purchases with your stolen credit card number and sees if they go through. If they do, they hit your account for bigger purchases.

You should have an email, text message or phone alert set up with your credit card company, so that the bank will contact you if there are any unusual spending items. If there are illegitimate charges, you must report to the bank as soon as possible so you won’t be charged for those items. The bank will lock your account and send you a new card in the mail.

This can be frustrating when you have set up monthly withdrawals to be charged against your card. You’ll have to go to those companies’ websites and change the card numbers you use for those charges.

How to protect yourself

The FBI says protect your computer by keeping the firewall turned on and by installing and updating your antivirus and antispyware software.

Be careful what you download and only download from trusted and secure websites. Also, keep your operating system up to date, and turn your computer off when it’s not in use. You will pay a yearly fee for antivirus, antispyware and firewall software services, but the safety they provide makes it well worth the cost.

If you’ve been the victim of a scam, file a complaint with your local/state police department’s cybercrime unit and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Forewarned is forearmed

The more you know about e-scams and fraudulent schemes, the safer you will feel.

Another way to protect yourself is by going to the Federal Trade Commission’s website. Its function is to protect America’s consumers by educating and taking consumer complaints on everything from identity theft to unwanted telemarketing solicitations by phone or by email.

It runs the National Do Not Call Registry, which you should sign up for. Once you are on the do-not-call list for at least 31 days, the calls/emails should stop. If they don’t, you can file a complaint with the FTC.

You can register each phone number that you have, and your registration won’t expire. You can check the FTC’s website if your phone number is registered.

Remember, it’s not OK for companies to leave recorded voicemails on your phone, so you can file a complaint if you receive unwanted telemarketing robocalls.

Once you are registered on the do-not-call list, it’s illegal for those telemarketers to continue to call you.

Use your common sense. If you don’t recognize the area code or the phone number on your caller ID, chances are it’s a telemarketing call. Don’t answer it, or if you do, insist that they take you off their call list.

To keep up to date on scams that are plaguing consumers, the FTC has an email alert system that you can sign up for.

Claire Damgaard, is an agent with New York Life Insurance Co. in Dubuque.

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