Virtual online classrooms are placing children and parents in front of screens for hours each weekday, increasing opportunities for cyberattacks and identity theft. The Automobile Club of Southern California is warning families to be on the alert for online fraud and offers services to help consumers protect themselves and recover from an identity theft attack.
“It’s important for parents to educate their children and themselves about common online methods used by criminals to gain access to personal information that can lead to drained bank accounts, credit card fraud, and months of trying to unravel the damage,” said Kyle Montooth, manager of the Auto Club’s ProtectMyID® member benefit.
Fraud Prevention Tips
The Auto Club offers the following tips to protect against online and other types of identity fraud, including new ones that have emerged this year during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Don’t get taken in by phishing attacks. “Phishing” is sending emails or texts that contain a malicious link or attachment that can result in criminals gaining access to your computer and stealing from your accounts or committing identity theft. Often they claim to be from a bank or retailer, and they may claim that your account has been compromised or offer you a gift card. Teach your children never to click on a link or attachment until you look at it to make sure it is from a trusted source.
- Beware of “contact tracer” scams. The Federal Trade Commission is warning about scam artists posing as COVID-19 contact tracers online, in person or on the phone who ask for money, account numbers or personal information that could lead to ID theft. Real contact tracers alert people that they may have come into contact with a COVID-19 patient, and do not ask for money, account access, or personal information like a Social Security number. The FTC also warns consumers not to click on a link in any text or email claiming to be from a “contact tracer” since those are likely phishing attacks.
- Use strong, unique passwords. Strong passwords contain at least 10 characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Make sure to create a different password for each account. To keep track of your passwords, use a secure password manager program and don’t write them down and keep them near your computer. Teach your children never to share passwords with their friends.
- Don’t be fooled by scam emails. If you receive an unexpected email or text from someone, even someone you know, asking you to confirm your account or provide sensitive information, or to perform actions on your computer, be suspicious. Check it out by contacting the person directly by phone, or by going directly to a website to confirm the request is legitimate.
- Sign up for identity theft monitoring. Stay up-to-date on any suspicious activity with identity theft monitoring. The Auto Club offers three ProtectMyID® member benefit options. ProtectMyID® Essential is free to Auto Club members and includes credit monitoring of members’ Experian credit report and fraud resolution. ProtectMyID® Deluxe and ProtectMyID® Platinum offer several additional protections for a member-discounted fee, including expanded monitoring, identity theft monitoring for members’ children and up to $1 million in identity theft insurance1. Visit AAA.com/IdTheft for more information.
- Keep your computer updated. Operating system and application updates help keep your computer secure by fixing vulnerabilities. Enable automatic updating so updates are installed as soon as possible.
- Secure your WiFi network. Make sure the network is password-enabled and you are using a strong password.
- Use two-step verification. Many financial account sites and social media sites allow you to require both a password and a code that is emailed or texted to you to gain access to the site. This provides you with an extra layer of protection.
1Identity Theft Insurance is underwritten by insurance company subsidiaries or affiliates of American International Group, Inc. (AIG). 175 Water Street, New York, New York 10038. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions