Scammers and Hackers on the Rise – How to Thwart Them

Not long ago, a friend of mine told me he received a Facebook friend request from me. Since we were already Facebook friends, he must have thought that either I was getting senile or I got hacked.

My response? "Not again!" I don't think I'm senile quite yet, but I know when I've been hacked. It's happening more and more lately. Especially on social media. 

I immediately changed my Facebook password. But it's just a matter of time before it happens again. Some people have nothing better to do than try to break into others' accounts and steal personal information they can use to impersonate or rob someone blind.

What really makes me angry is when these hackers and scammers prey on vulnerable people. Including the elderly. 

Many Americans Are Victims

Today I want to provide you with information about how prevalent these hacks and scams are. And what we can do to protect ourselves. 

In a recent study by Insider Intelligence, it was revealed that one-third of Americans 13 and older were victims of a scam or hack in the past year.

About 15% had a social media account hacked, 13% had a credit card hacked and 10% fell for an online scam.

In other examples, 8% had their bank account hacked and another 8% had their location information misused. Approximately 7% had their identity stolen, 6% had their health data breached, and 5% were victims of a ransomware attack. 

Tech Support Fraud Growing

The ultimate goal of hackers and scammers is to steal your money. Fortunately, authorities take this very seriously. Unfortunately, they're usually unable to do anything about it. Hackers and scammers live in a shadowy world that's difficult to penetrate.

One of the things the FBI is looking at closely these days is tech support fraud. If a scammer can convince you to contact them regarding tech support for your computer, you can lose a lot. 

The Boston Division of the FBI says tech support fraud is on the rise. As are financial losses experienced by the unsuspecting.

The scammers tell people their financial accounts have been compromised and the only way to keep them safe is by moving their funds. But that "movement" is actually a transfer to an account scammers can access. And suddenly it's all gone… with no trace of the criminal. 

Some fraudsters actually convince people to install a free desktop software allowing the scammer to monitor and manipulate the victims' computers.

FBI Says 'Heed This Warning'

In 2021, nearly 24,000 people reported losing more than $347 million due to tech support scams. That's up 13% over 2020. Often the theft occurs when victims respond to a pop-up ad that scares them into contacting the scammer.

Joseph Bonavolonta is a special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division. "Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new ways to rip off unsuspecting consumers," he said.

"And this latest tactic has resulted in staggering losses. In some cases, we've seen victims lose their entire life savings. Which is why we are urging everyone, especially our aging family members and friends, to heed this warning." 

Among scams perpetrated most against seniors are Medicare scams. A caller pretends to be from Medicare and asks for personal information. Another is the work-at-home scam where they act like they want to hire you and ask for your social security number. 

There are also plenty of phone scams threatening legal action if you don't pay an overdue "debt." Plus home repair scams where they ask you to pay in advance of services, online shopping scams and charity scams.  

How to Protect Yourself 

Here are some things the FBI wants you to know in order to protect yourself: 

  • Legitimate customer, security or tech support companies will not initiate unsolicited contact with individuals.
  • Make sure your computer, antivirus, security and malware protection is up to date and that your settings will reduce popups.
  • If a popup or error message appears with a phone number, don't call it.
  • Never give anyone you don't know remote access to your devices or accounts.
  • Never trust anyone you don't know requesting personal or financial information.

But if you do become a victim of a scammer or hacker, do the following:

  • Contact your financial institution immediately to tell them what happened.
  • File a police report locally.
  • File a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center.
  • Run up-to-date virus scan software to check for potentially malicious software.
  • Change all your passwords.
  • Keep a log of communications with the scammer or hacker. 

Your Pocket-Sized Power Plant

The only thing worse than having one of your electronic accounts hacked is being unable to correct the situation in a timely manner because your devices are dead.

It's crucial to keep your cellphone and other devices containing personal information charged. That way you can immediately take action if an account has been compromised.

A great way to keep them charged is with the Patriot Power Cell. You can charge this pocket-sized power plant through an outlet or with its built-in solar panel. And then it can charge a variety of electrical devices. Including your cellphone.   

With a pair of USB ports, you can charge two electronic devices at once. It features a "ruggedized" design that repels water and protects against drops. It even includes a flashlight.

The Patriot Power Cell has become so popular that most people buy them in 4-packs. That way they can keep two at home and the others in their vehicles. Or give a couple to family members. 

Here's how to get yours… 

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