Protect yourself from cons and scams

person on phone
The Federal Trade Commission reports that criminals stole approximately $8.8 billion from Americans in 2022. While scams are rampant, one of the ways to protect yourself is to stay aware of the latest scams and schemes that criminals are using and follow some simple rules.

Your mailbox

Informed Delivery is a free service from the U.S. Postal Service. The agency emails images of letter-size mail expected to be delivered to you that day. This is a great way to be sure that nothing is stolen from your mailbox by ID thieves. Sign up at Pick up mail as quickly as possible after it’s delivered. Always take your outgoing mail directly to the post office. A common fraud scheme is scammers stealing checks from mailboxes, erasing the ink, and then using them to steal from bank accounts.

Your wallet

Remove all cards and information you don’t need to carry like your Social Security card, Medicare card, insurance cards, membership and credit cards that you no longer use. Make copies of the remaining cards (front and back) and store the copies in a safe place at home.

Your home

Consider installing a video camera at your front door. Then if you don’t recognize a visitor, don’t answer. If you find yourself being pressured by a visitor to buy or donate, tell them that you do not do business at your door. Ask them to leave something to review. Tell them, “If I’m interested, I’ll call you.”

Your computer

Turn on two-factor authentication for all secure websites you frequent, such as banks, utility companies and other businesses. Consider subscribing to an antivirus software service.

Your email accounts

Designate unsolicited and unwanted email that shows up in your inbox as spam, so future emails from that site get blocked. Do not open file attachments in emails from businesses or people you don’t know and trust. Malware is often planted via email attachments.

Your financial accounts

Create online accounts with each of your financial institutions. Come up with a unique password for each. Get in the habit of reviewing the transaction lists on a monthly basis. Be sure you can account for every listed transaction. Spot something odd or incorrect? Report it.

Your credit report

Regularly check your credit report. (Many credit card companies provide it for free; if not, go to or call 1-877-322-8228.) Watch for unusual activity; if you see any, report it immediately to your financial institution.

Your smartphone

Turn on biometric identification (fingerprint or facial recognition); this will help prevent a thief from logging in to your phone. Send calls from unknown numbers to voicemail. Scammers are sending far more bogus texts, sometimes posing as companies you routinely deal with. Never respond to an unsolicited business text; if you think it might be valid, call the organization or go online.

Your garbage

Shred any papers that contain private information (financial statements, bills, shipping receipts) before putting them out for trash pickup to avoid identity theft. Don’t want to invest in a good cross-cut shredder? Many communities have shredding events or permanent drop-off sites.

© 2023 M.A. Co.