At Vera Whole Health, we spend a lot of time ensuring the physical, mental, and emotional health of our patients. Your digital health — meaning the security of your identity, personal information, and finances — is a component of that, playing an important role in your peace of mind, stability, and overall well-being.
With the excitement of the holiday season and a surge in web traffic and spending, scammers tend to be increasingly active this time of year. They know there are opportunities for trickery when people are busy and distracted. If you are looking for ways to keep your identity and resources safe this holiday season, here are four ways to reduce your risk.
1. Don’t pay anyone with a gift card
If anyone ever asks you to pay them with a gift card, refuse. Gift cards are impossible to trace and irretrievable once gone, making them a popular way for scammers to get their hands on your money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, “Anyone who demands to be paid with a gift card is a scammer.”
Scammers might try to scare you or add urgency to their requests so you don’t have time to research or reconsider the legitimacy of those requests. Don’t allow anyone to pressure you into acting quickly — rather, take the time you need to analyze what is truly happening before making a payment.
2. Confirm identities and don’t click links
Many scammers send messages, including text and emails, from fake accounts, impersonating well-known and/or familiar businesses and organizations. These are called imposter scams, and they’re hugely popular with wrongdoers. Scammers impersonate UPS workers, the IRS, tech support, and any other organization that might commandeer respect. Sometimes they even pretend to be nannies. Their goals vary — they might demand payment or be after your credit card information, passwords, social security number, or more.
If anyone texts or emails you a link, triple check that they truly are who they say they are before clicking.
And, as long as we’re talking about links, keep an eye out for phishing as well. Phishing attacks occur when unsavory links are disguised within legitimate-seeming pop-ups, ads, and other forms of communications. By clicking the link, you allow scammers the access they need to install spyware, malware, or viruses on your computer or device. According to research by Digital Guardian, more than 90% of the security breaches corporations fall victim to happen as a result of phishing.
3. Stay suspicious about any packages you weren’t expecting
With online shopping having become a popular option, package delivery scams are becoming more common. Typically, you’ll receive some form of notification — a text, call, email, or even a slip of paper at your door. Usually these messages include either a link, which is typically a phishing attempt, or a number for you to call.
It’s best to be careful, so don’t interact with either. Instead, go to the delivery carrier's website, or the sender’s website, to verify that a package was actually sent. For more information on this specific form of scan, please visit the FCC website.
4. Be extra careful if you’re searching for a job right now
Most people search for and apply to open positions online, however this can make you vulnerable in a variety of ways. Now that many job positions are also entirely remote, wrongdoers have an even greater opportunity to exploit job seekers. It’s far easier to mask true identities, target individuals, conduct interviews, and sometimes even pretend to hire from afar. Scammers might use letterhead, logos, and/or details about available positions that appear legitimate.
Stay on trusted job sites with policies of verifying posts. Limit the personal information you’re willing to provide online, especially if someone approaches you about a potential job, because scammers often approach their victims with seemingly great opportunities. Do your research. If something seems too good to be true, there’s a strong chance it’s a scam.
Some job scams are simple attempts to steal contact information, while others are far more elaborate, attempting to gain access to banking information, social security numbers, or more. If you’re ever offered a check in advance or asked to pay for supplies or training fees, walk away immediately.
Vera jobs can always be verified by searching on our career website. If they’re not found there, they don’t exist. While our open positions are also listed on hiring sites such as Indeed and Zip Recruiter, to find the most up-to-date information, make sure to visit our website.
Additional things you can do to protect yourself
Here are a few more simple steps you can take to prevent bad actors from taking advantage of you this holiday season:
- Be careful of the business you choose to conduct when using a device that’s connected to a public WiFi network.
- Don’t use the same password for multiple websites and devices. That way, if someone does get access to your password, the amount of damage they can do with it is limited. Two-factor authentication can also limit scammers’ ability to steal your money and data.
- Research any charities you choose to donate to, and don’t let anyone push you into making an immediate donation.
- Keep a consistent eye on your bank and credit card statements so you can quickly spot any unusual activity.
- Listen to your gut. When a situation is unusual, you’ll often get a weird sensation. Many scammers try to rush or scare people, to prevent them from examining that feeling. But, it’s there to protect you.
If a scam happens to you
To access more information on this topic, consider visiting The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) scam alert page, which is updated with information on common scams, including the latest tactics scammers are using to take advantage of people.
If your identity is stolen, or you’re a victim of fraud, don’t be too hard on yourself. You aren't alone. Scammers can be incredibly creative and persuasive. In 2021 alone, the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network received more than 5.7 million reports related to these types of incidents.
We recommend you visit the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov site to report cases of identity theft and fraud and begin steps toward recovery. If you’re a victim of a scam, start at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. If you lose money or property to a scammer, you’ll also want to make a report with your local law enforcement. Contact your banks and/or credit institutions to alert them to what has happened and, depending on the nature of the scam, consider adding a fraud alert to your credit file.
Stay safe this holiday season and beyond!
Vera is now a proud part of apree health, extending our ability to deliver world-class care to patients.
This is an updated version of a post from December 28, 2021