Online scams target us year-round.
But during the holiday shopping season, they are more aggressive than ever, luring people looking for deals.
Stephen Casper is a long-time real estate agent who has seen a lot over the years. So when he recently received an email about a free holiday gift from Costco, his internal alarm went off.
"It said 'congratulations,'" he said, reading the email. "It said I have been selected for an exclusive reward."
Not only did it feature a bad cellphone image of a Costco store, but it was from a strange email address.
"It had nothing to do with Costco," Casper said.
But no sooner than he deleted that one, he received another suspicious email about joining a lawsuit for veterans who served at Camp LeJeune in the 1970s and '80s.
"It said I was entitled to $50,000," he said. "I knew darn well that was an instant scam."
He said he had never even visited Camp LeJeune, let alone served there.
A scam email that you open up or respond to is just one of the ways hackers can get between you and your personal information. So it's important to set up barriers to stop them.
5 things you can do
Kim Key, a security analyst withPCMag, said there are five simple ways to improve your online safety,in about 10 minutes.
- Invest in a password manager that way you don't have to remember all those complex passwords yourself. "The human brain isn't meant to do that," Kim said. "We aren't meant to store that much information."
- Update your web browser. "Hackers are always working," she said, "and web browsers are very vulnerable to this, even the popular ones."
- Turn on banking notifications.
- Keep an eye on your credit score.
- Set up multi-factor authentication for all accounts (which makes logging in a two-step process), including email. That means logging in with something you know, like a password or PIN, and something else as well.
"You can log in with your face, or you can log in with your fingerprint," she said. "Something biometric is best."
In this tough economy, Stephen Casper can see how he or anyone could fall for these scams.
"You might let your guard down," he said.
So set up protections, so you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money" is a registered trademark of Scripps Media, Inc. ("Scripps").
Like" John Matarese Money on Facebook
Follow John on Instagram @johnmataresemoney
Follow John on Twitter (@JohnMatarese)
For more consumer news and money saving advice, go to www.dontwasteyourmoney.com