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Security Tips

Consumer Technology Topic of the Month


Each year, millions of elderly Americans fall victim to some type of financial fraud or confidence scheme, including romance, lottery and sweepstakes scams- just to name a few. 

Criminals will gain their targets' trust and may communicate with them directly online, over the phone, and/or through mail; or indirectly through TV and radio. Once successful, scammers often keep the scam going because of the prospect of significant financial gain.

Seniors are often targeted because they tend to be trusting and polite. They also usually have financial savings, own a home, and have good credit- all of which makes them more attractive to scammers.

Additionally, seniors may be less inclined to report fraud because they don't know how, or they may be too ashamed at having been scammed. They might also be concerned that their relatives will lose confidence in their ability to manage their own financial affairs. And when an elderly victim does report a crime, they may be unable to supply detailed information to investigators. 


  • ROMANCE SCAM: Criminals pose as interested romantic partners on social media or dating websites to capitalize on their elderly victims' desire to find companions.
  • TECH SUPPORT SCAM: Criminals pose as technology support representatives and offer to fix non-existent computer issues. The scammers gain remote access to victims' devices and sensitive information.
  • GRANDPARENT SCAM: A type of confidence scam where criminals pose as a relative- usually a child or grandchild- claiming to be in immediate financial need.
  • GOVERNMENT IMPERSONATION SCAM: Criminals pose as government employees and threaten to arrest or prosecute victims unless they agree to provide funds or other payments.
  • SWEEPSTAKES/CHARITY/LOTTERY SCAM: Criminals claim to work for legitimate charitable organizations to gain victims' trust. Or they claim their targets have won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes, which they can collect for a "fee".
  • HOME REPAIR SCAM: Criminals appear in person and charge homeowners in advance for home improvements they never provide.
  • TV/RADIO SCAM: Criminals target potential victims using illegitimate advertisements about legitimate services, such as reverse mortgages or credit repair.
  • Family/caregiver scam: Relatives or acquaintances of the elderly victims take advantage of them or otherwise get their money.

  • Recognize scam attempts and end all communications with the perpetrator.
  • Search online for the contact information and the proposed offer. Other people have likely posted information online about individuals and businesses trying to run scams.
  • Resist the pressure to act quickly. Scammers create a sense of urgency to produce fear and lure victims into immediate action. Call the police immediately if you feel there is a a danger to yourself or a loved one.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, and door-to-door services offers.
  • Never give or send any personally identifiable information, money, jewelry, gift cards, checks or wire information to unverified people or businesses.
  • Make sure all computer anti-virus and security software and malware protections are up to date. Use reputable anti-virus software and firewalls.
  • Disconnect from the internet and shut down your device if you see a pop-message or locked screen. Pop-ups are regularly used by perpetrators to spread malicious software. Enable pop-up blockers to avoid accidentally clicking on a pop-up.
  • Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don't know, and be wary of email attachments forwarded to you.
  • Take precautions to protect your identity if a criminal gains access to your device or account. Immediately contact your financial institution to place protections on your accounts, and monitor your accounts and personal information for suspicious activity.
Fake checks drive many types of scams- like those involving phony prize wins, fake jobs, mystery shoppers, online classified ad sales, and others. In a fake check scam, a person you don't know asks you to deposit a check-sometimes for several thousand dollars and usually for more than what you are owed- and wire some of the money back to that person. The scammers always have a good story to explain the overpayment- they're stuck out of the country, they need you to cover taxes or fees, you need to buy supplies, or something else. But by the time your bank discovers you've deposited a bad check, the scammer already has the money you sent, and you're stuck paying the rest of the check back to the bank.

The Federal Trade Commission receives tens of thousands of reports each year about fake checks. Over the last three years, the number of complaints has steadily increased, and so have the dollars lost.

The FTC's new info graphic developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation, offers some tip-offs to rip-offs and what to do if you get a check from someone you don't know.

Please share this information with others. Victims may be embarrassed to talk about their experiences, but you can help. A simple phone call, email or text, saying "Look what I just found" and sharing this information may make a difference in someone else's life.
Here are the most common Zelle scams to watch out for:

1. Money Mule Scams

Work from home job scams- that turn distressed job seekers into unsuspecting money mules- are nothing new. These job scams usually unfold this way:
  • The candidate applies for a "lucrative work-from home job" online
  • A "hiring manager" reaches out, usually via Messenger, Telegram, Skype, or a text message
  • The "hiring manager" extends an offer to the candidate, but there's a catch.. The candidate is asked to front money or deposit a check, usually in the guise of purchasing work equipment.
  • It always ends the same way- with the candidates still out of work, and no means to get their stolen money back.
Here's what to do:

  • Be wary of any job for which the entire interview process takes place through text messages. Legitimate jobs usually require at least one phone call or in-person interview.
  • Legitimate jobs don't require you to pay for your own equipment.
  • Never give your Zelle account information- including your phone number or email- to unknown individuals.
2. Zelle transfers to "yourself"

Here's what to do:

  • If you suspect you're on the phone with a scammer, hang up.
  • Never share your bank or Zelle account authentication codes with anyone.
  • Don't send money to yourself via Zelle to "reverse unauthorized payments"
Account upgrade scam

  • Spoofing is a type of phishing scam in which the scammer is deliberately impersonating a company and/or installing malicious software at the same time.
Here's what to do:

  • Know that Zelle will never solicit money via emails or phone calls.
  • Verify that the sender's email address is from an official domain.
  • Look for signs of phishing- questionable grammar and a tone of forced urgency are some tip-offs.
4. Bank impersonators

Smishing is a form of phishing in which scammers send text messages purporting to be from reputable companies, usually banks.

The tactics that scammers use in smishing scams closely resemble phishing or spoofing schemes. Most smishing text messages claim to either flag a "suspicious login" or a "suspicious purchase".

If you respond or click on a link in the text, you will most likely receive a call from a bank representative impersonator.

5. Account takeovers

Account takeover fraud (ATO) is exactly what it sounds like- a scammer gets access to your Zelle account, changes the password, and locks you out.

  • Account takeovers usually unfold the same way as phishing, spoofing or smishing scams wherein the victim clicks on a phony login link.
  • This gives the scammer access to your accounts.
  • Then, they change your password and other account details to lock you out of your account.
  • Since the locked-out account is still connected to your bank account, you'll be the one footing the bill for the scammer's spending spree.
Here's what to do:

  • Only enter your Zelle login credentials on the official Zelle app or website.
  • Send a $1.00 transfer to confirm that you've reached the intended recipient prior to making larger transfers.
6. Zelle scammers on Facebook Marketplace

  • In this scam, the alleged buyer responds to a listing on Facebook Marketplace asking if the item is still available. This usually happens within a couple of hours after the listing goes up. The scammer often pretends to be a senior citizen who isn't very tech-savvy.
  • They ask for your phone number or email address to send you the money on Zelle.
  • You may then receive a phishing email from Zelle lookalike domain, "" is an example.
  • These emails typically prompt you to pay to upgrade to a Zelle business account. You may even be asked to pay via link in the phishing email.
Here's what to do:

  • Ask for the recipient's Zelle email address- not a phone number. Spotting typos in email addresses is easier (and more obvious) than identifying incorrect digits in a phone number.
  • Remember that you don't need a Zelle business account to make and accept payments on Zelle.
  • Don't use Zelle for commercial transactions.
7. Refund and recovery scams

If someone bilked you, scammers know you will be desperate to get your money back. Refund and recovery scams take advantage of your already vulnerable state by charging for bogus services.

  • You may receive a call out of the blue flagging a fraudulent transaction from your bank account.
  • The caller purports to be from your bank and even offers evidence such as a seemingly legitimate caller ID.
  • They then walk you through an elaborate, fake Zelle refund process. You inadvertently end up paying the scammer to reclaim funds you never lost in the first place.
Here's what to do:

  • If you're not convinced you're speaking to a bank representative, hang up and call the official number on your bank's website.
  • Be wary if anyone demands upfront payment to "recover" your lost funds on account access.
8. Craigslist scams

Over payment and rental scams may be the two most common scams on Craigslist.

  • If rental scams pressure you into paying advances for a listing that's too good to be true, overpayment scams operate differently.
  • An "interested" buyer may contact you about the item you're selling on Craigslist.
  • When the buyer pays you with a certified or cashier's check, you notice it exceeds the sale price.
  • They then urge you to deposit the check and wire the overpaid amount.
  • By the time the bank flags the counterfeit check, you've lost the sale item and the overpaid amount.
Here's what to do:

  • Look up the bank account address, and phone number for the bank name displayed on any check you receive. Call the bank's official phone number- not the one listed on the check- to confirm.
  • Turn down checks made out to an amount larger than what you discussed. If the buyer insists that you return any over payments using apps like Zelle, it's a scam.
Why are these Scams on the Rise?

Zelle has quickly become the most popular peer-to-peer payment app, its popularity alone would be enough to make it a prime target for scammers. However, there are a few specific reasons why fraudsters target Zelle specifically.

Zelle transfers are near-instant and irreversible.

  • If the person you're sending money to is also a Zelle user, the payment can't be canceled.
  • Zelle- like Venmo or Cash App- was designed to transfer money between family and friends, not unknown users. This is why Zelle uses the Automated Clearing House payments system to expedite transactions.
Zelle connects directly to your bank account or debit card

  • Unlike its competitors, Zelle is owned by Early Warning Services- a fintech company run by seven of the largest banks in the United States.
  • Money transfers require little more than tapping on the Zelle integration on participating bank's mobile app.
  • If your bank doesn't integrate with Zelle, the standalone Zelle app will initiate transfers as long as you connect Visa or Mastercard debit card.
How to Avoid Cryptocurrency Scams!
Scammers are always finding new ways to steal your money using cryptocurrency. To steer clear of a crypto con, here are some things to know.

  • ONLY SCAMMERS DEMAND PAYMENT IN CRYPTOCURRENCY. No legitimate business is going to demand you send cryptocurrency in advance- not to buy something, and not to protect your money. That's always a scam.
  • ONLY SCAMMERS WILL GUARANTEE PROFITS OR BIG RETURNS. Don't trust people who promise you can quickly and easily make money in the crypto markets.
  • NEVER MIX ONLINE DATING AND INVESTMENT ADVICE. If you meet someone on a dating site or app, and they want to show you how to invest in crypto, or asks you to send them crypto, that's a scam.
Spot Crypto-Related Scams
Here are some common investment scams, and how to spot them.

  • A so-called "investment manager" contacts you out of the blue. They promise to grow your money- but only if you buy cryptocurrency and transfer it into their online account. The investment website they steer you to looks real, but it's a fake, and so are their promises. If you log in to your "investment account", you won't be able to withdraw your money at all, or only if you pay high fees.
  • An online "love interest" wants you to send money or cryptocurrency to help you invest. That's a scam. As soon as someone you meet on a dating app asks you for money, or offers you investment advice advice, know this: that's a scammer. The advice and offers to help you invest in cryptocurrency are nothing but scams. If you send them crypto, or money of any kind, it'll be gone, and you typically won't get it back.
  • Scammers guarantee that you'll make money or promise big payouts with guaranteed returns. Nobody can make those guarantees. Much less in a short time. And there's nothing "low risk" about cryptocurrency investments. So: if a company or person promises you'll make a profit, that's a scam. Even if there's a celebrity endorsement or testimonials from happy investors. Those are easily faked.
  • Scammers promise free money. They'll promise free cash or cryptocurrency, but free money promises are always fake.
  • Scammers make big claims without details or explanations. No matter what the investment, find out how it works and ask questions about where your money is going. Honest investment managers or advisors want to share that information and will back it up with details. 

Technology Topic of the Month

Account Takeover

What is Account Takeover

Account Takeover (ATO) fraud involves a criminal gaining unauthorized access to a user's account and using it for some type of personal gain.

What is Account Takeover Fraud?

Account takeover fraud can involve any type of online account, social media, and online banking accounts. Commonly targeted accounts are those from which a criminal can steal money. For example, a hacker might gain access to an online banking account and send funds to their own account. A fraudster could take over a social media account and invent a reason to request money from family and friends of the victim.

Difference Between Account Takeover and Identity Theft

With account takeover, the fraudster is using an existing account, whereas in identity theft, they would open up a new account while posing as the victim.

How Do Criminals Get Credentials In the First Place?

Data Breaches

A data breach is when a list of usernames (and potentially accompanying passwords) is leaked. These lists go on sale on the black market, meaning any number of criminals could be using them at the same time.

If a username and password for one account is known, hackers can use automated systems to try the same combination on a list of popular online platforms. This is referred to as credential stuffing, and is the reason it's so important to use a different password for every account.

Phishing Scams

These attacks may occur via email, over the phone, or via text message. The fraudster is trying to get you to hand over your login information. A phishing email might pose as a customer support message that persuades you to click a link to a phishing site (a fake website designed to phish for information). Here, you are prompted to enter your login information, which is then stolen by criminals.

Phone Scams

An example of an account takeover scam initiated over the phone is an iteration of the tech support scheme.

For example, the criminal poses as a Microsoft representative and persuades you that your computer has a virus and needs to be fixed. You hand over remote access to your device, and the criminal can access any accounts you have credentials stored for. They may purport to be "testing" accounts and access them in plain sight, or they could remote access to install spyware.


Specific types of malware downloaded onto your device from malicious email links or attachments could expose your credentials. Some spyware takes regular images of your computer sessions, while key loggers record every keystroke, exposing your usernames and passwords.

Hacking Over Unsecured Wife

Many people think nothing of logging in to free Wi-Fi while at a cafe', mall, hotel, or airport. But these networks are often unsecured and represent a great opportunity for hackers to steal your information. A common attack over these networks is a man in the middle attack in which the hacker intercepts the contents of your internet traffic.

What are Attackers Trying To Do?

Here are some of the different things that criminals can get up to once they have access:

  • Credit Card Fraud- Credit Card details for use in credit card fraud.
  • Merchant Account Fraud- With access to bank account, an attacker can transfer funds to another account, among other things.
  • Re-sell credentials: Username and password combinations may be posted for sale on the black market.
  • Take out loans: Access to financial accounts can be used to take out loans and even mortgages in the victim's name.
  • Monetary requests: By taking over a victim's social media account, the attacker can pose as the victim and make requests to family and friends for money.

* Once a criminal has access to an account, they usually very quickly try to lock the real user out by changing the password, recovery email, two-factor authentication settings, and security questions and logging out of other devices.


Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal and financial information. But there are several ways to protect yourself.


Scammers use email or text messages to try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security Numbers. If they get that information, they could get access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day- and they're often successful.

Scammers often update their tactics to keep up with the latest news or trends, but here are some common tactics used in phishing emails or text messages:

Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. You might get an unexpected email or text message that looks like it's from a company you know or trust, like a bank or a credit card or utility company. Or maybe it's from an online payment website or app. The message could be from a scammer, who might

  • say they've noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts- they haven't
  • claim there's a problem with your payment information- there isn't
  • say you need to confirm some personal or financial information- you don't
  • include an invoice you don't recognize- it's fake
  • want you to click on a link to make a payment- but the link has malware
  • say you're eligible to register for a government refund- it's a scam
  • offer a coupon for free stuff- it's not real
Here are some signs that an email is a scam, even though it looks like it comes from a company you know- and even uses the company's logo in the header:

  • The email has a generic greeting
  • The email says your account is on hold because of a billing problem.
  • The email invites you to click on a link to update your payment details.
While real companies might communicate with you by email, legitimate companies won't email or text with a link to update your payment information. Phishing emails can often have real consequences for people who give scammers their information, including identity theft. And they might harm the reputation of the companies they're spoofing.


Four Ways to Protect Yourself From  Phishing

1. Protect your computer by using security software to update automatically so it will deal with any new security threats.

2. Protect your cell phone by setting software to update automatically. These updates could give you critical protection against security threats.

3. Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication. Some accounts offer extra security by requiring two or more credentials to log in to your account. This is called multi-factor authentication. The extra credentials you need to log in to your account fall into three categories:

  • something you know- like a passcode, a PIN, or the answer to a security question.
  • something you have- like a one-time verification passcode you get by text, email or from an authentication app; or a security key
Multi-factor authentication makes it harder for scammers to log in to your accounts if they do get your username and password.

4. Protect your data by backing it up. Back up your data on your computer to an external hard drive or in the cloud. Back up the data on your phone, too.


If you get an email or a text message that asks you to click on the link or open an attachment, answer this question:

Do I have an account with the company or know the person who contacted me?

If the answer is "No", it could be a phishing scam. Go back and review the advice in HOW TO RECOGNIZE PHISHING and look for signs of a phishing scam.

If the answer is "Yes", contact the company using a phone number or website you know is real- not the information in the email. Attachments and links might install harmful malware.

Don't be a Mule: Awareness Can Prevent Crime

What is a money mule?

A money mule is someone who transfers or moves illegally acquired money on behalf of someone else.

Criminals recruit money mules to help launder proceeds derived from online scams and frauds or crimes like human trafficking and drug trafficking. Money mules add layers of distance between crime victims and criminals, which makes it harder for law enforcement to accurately trace money trails.

Money mules can move funds in various ways, including through bank accounts, cashier's checks, virtual currency, prepaid debit cards, or money service businesses.

Some money mules know they are supporting criminal enterprises; others are unaware that they are helping criminals profit.

Money mules often receive a commission for their service, or they might provide assistance because they believe they have a trusting or romantic relationship with the individual who is asking for help.

If you are moving money at the direction of another person, you may be serving as a money mule.


Acting as a money mule is illegal and punishable, even if you aren't aware you're committing a crime.

If you are a  money mule, you could be prosecuted and incarcerated as part of a criminal money laundering conspiracy. Some of the federal charges you could face include mail fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, and aggravated identity theft.

Serving as a money mule can also damage your credit and financial standing. Additionally, you risk having your own personally identifiable information stolen and used by the criminals you are working for, and you may be personally liable for repaying money lost by the victims.


Criminals often target students, those looking for work, or those on dating websites, but anyone can be approached to be a money mule.


  • You received an unsolicited email or social media message that promises easy money for little or no effort.
  • The "employer" you communicate with uses web-based email services (such as outlook, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.)
  • You are asked to open a bank account in your own name or in the name of a company you form to receive and transfer money.
  • As an employee, you are asked to receive funds in your bank account and then "process" or "transfer" funds via: wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service business (such as Western Union or MoneyGram).
  • You are allowed to keep a portion of the money you transfer.
  • Your duties have no specific job description.
  • An online contact or companion, whom you have never met in person, asks you to receive money and then forward to one or more individuals you do not know.
  • Do online searches to check the legitimacy of any company that offers you a job.
  • DO not accept any job offers that ask you to use your own bank account to transfer money. A legitimate company will not ask you to do this.
  • Be wary if an employer asks you to form a company to open up a new bank account.
  • Be suspicious if an individual you met on a dating website wants to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money.
  • Never give your financial details to someone you don't know and trust, especially if you met them online.

If you have received solicitations of this type, do not respond to them and do not click on any links they contain. Inform your local police or FBI.

If you believe that you are participating in a money mule scheme:

  • Stop communicating with the suspected criminal(s)
  • Stop transferring money or any other items of value immediately.
  • Maintain any receipts, contact information, and relevant communications (emails, chats, text messages, etc)
  • Notify your bank and the service you used to conduct the transaction.
  • Notify law enforcement. Report suspicious activity to the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center and contact your local FBI field office.

Tech support scammers want you to believe you have a serious problem with your computer, like a virus. They want you to pay for tech support services you don't need, to fix a problem that doesn't exist. They often ask you to pay by wiring money, putting money on a gift card, prepaid card, or cash reload card, using cryptocurrency or a money transfer app because they know those types of payments can be hard to reverse.


Tech support scammers use many different tactics to trick people. Spotting these tactics will help you avoid falling for the scam.


Tech support scammers often call and pretend to be a computer technician from a well-known company. They say they've found a problem with your computer. They typically ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then pretend to run a diagnostic test. They then try to make you pay to fix a problem that doesn't exist. 

If you get a phone call you didn't expect from someone who says there's a problem with your computer, hang up.


Tech support scammers may try to trick you with a pop-up window that appears on your computer screen. It might look like an error message from your operating system or antivirus software, and it might use logos from trusted companies or websites. The message in the window warns you about a security issue on your computer and tells you to call a phone number to get help.


Tech support scammers try to get their websites to show up in online search results for tech support. Or they might run their own ads online. The scammers are hoping you'll call the phone number to get help.

If you're looking for tech support, go to a company you know and trust.

Two Things To Know To Avoid a Tech Support Scam:

1. Legitimate tech companies won't contact you by phone, email, or text message to tell you there's a problem with your computer.

2. Security pop-up warnings from real tech companies will never ask you to call a phone number or click on a link.


If you think there may be a problem with your computer, update your computer's security software and run a scam.

If you need help fixing a problem, go to someone you know and trust. Many software companies offer support online or by phone. Stores that sell computer equipment also offer technical support in person.


If you paid a tech support scammer with a credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your credit card company or bank right away. Tell them what happened and ask if they can reverse the charges.

If you paid a tech support scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money.

If you gave a scammer remote access to your computer, update your computer's security software. Then run a scan and delete anything it identifies as a problem.

If you gave your username and password to a tech support scammer, change your password right away. If you use the same password for other accounts or sites, change it there, too. Create a new password that is strong.

Avoid Tech Support Refund Scams

If someone calls to offer you a refund for tech support services you paid for, it's likely a fake refund scam. How does the scam work? The caller will ask if you were happy with the services you got. If you say "No," they'll offer you a refund. In another variation, the caller says the company is giving out refunds because it's going out of business. No matter their story, they're not giving out refunds. They're trying to steal more of your money. Don't give them your bank account, credit card, or other payment information.

Mobile payment apps can be a convenient way to send and receive money with your smartphone. These apps have become very popular- and scammers may try to use them to steal your money. Find out how mobile payment apps work and how to avoid sending money to a scammer.


You may have heard of mobile payment apps like Venmo, Cash App, or PayPal that let you send and receive money through your smartphone (or online). If you haven't used one before, here's how they work.

First, you download the mobile payment app, and create an account. You'll have to choose a payment method or source of funds, like a bank account, debit card, or a credit card.

Once you set up the account, you can send and receive money. When someone sends you money, the money doesn't go directly to your bank account. It gets added to your balance in the app. You can leave the money there to use later or transfer it to your bank account.


Some scammers may try to trick you into sending them money through a mobile payment app. That's because they know once you do, its hard for you to get your money back.

Scammers might pretend to be a loved one who's in trouble and ask you for money to deal with an emergency. Others might say you won a prize or a sweepstakes but need to pay some fees to collect it.

Keep this advice in mind if you send money through a mobile payment app:
  • Don't send a payment to claim a prize or collect sweepstakes winnings.
  • Don't give your account credentials to anyone that contacts you.
  • Before you submit any payment, double-check the recipient's information to make sure you're sending money to the right person.
  • If you get an unexpected request for money from someone you do not recognize, speak with them to make sure the request really is from them- and not a hacker who got access to their account.

If you find unauthorized payments or you think you paid a scammer, here's how to report it to the mobile payment app:

  • Cash App. Cash App recommends chatting through their app for the fastest service. To do so, open the app, go to your profile, and choose Support. You can also get help through or by calling 1 (800) 969-1940.
  • Venmo. Venmo recommends chatting through their app for the fastest service. To do so, open the app, go to your profile, and choose Get Help. You can also email Venmo through their contact form or call them at 1 (855) 812-4430.
  • PayPal. Report it online through PayPal's Resolution Center or call PayPal at 1 (888) 221-1161.

Don't let your guard down just because you're on a mobile device. Be just as careful as you would on a desktop!

  • Don't allow your device to auto-join unfamiliar networks.
  • Always turn off WiFi when you aren't using it or don't need it.
  • Never send sensitive information over WiFi unless you're absolutely sure it's a secure network.
  • Only use apps available in your device's official store- NEVER download from a browser.
  • Be wary of apps from unknown developers or those with limited/bad reviews.
  • Keep them updated to ensure they have the latest security.
  • If they're no longer supported by your store, just delete!
  • Don't grant administrator, or excessive privileges to apps unless you truly trust them.
  • Watch for ads, giveaways and contests that seem too good to be true. Often these lead to phishing sites that appear to be legit.
  • Pay close attention to URLs. These are harder to verify on mobile screens but it's worth the effort.
  • Never save your login information when you're using a web browser.
  • Disable automatic Bluetooth pairing.
  • Always turn it off when you don't need it.
Smishing (phishing via SMS)
  • Don't trust messages that attempt to get you to reveal any personal information.
  • Beware of similar tactics in platforms like What's App, Facebook Messenger Instagram, etc.
  • Treat messages the same way you would treat email, always think before you click!
Vishing (voice phising)
  • Do not respond to telephone or email requests for personal financial information. If you are concerned, call the financial institution directly, using the phone number that appears on the back of your credit card or monthly statement.
  • Never click on a link in an unsolicited commercial email.
  • Speak only with live people when providing account information, and only when you initiate the call.

What is cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is a type of digital currency that generally exists only electronically. You usually use your phone, computer, or a cryptocurrency ATM to buy cryptocurrency. Both Bitcoin and Ether are well-known cryptocurrencies, but there are many different cryptocurrencies, and new ones keep being created.

People use cryptocurrency for many reasons- quick payments, to avoid transaction fees that traditional banks charge, or because it offers some anonymity. Others hold cryptocurrency as an investment, hoping the value goes up.

How do you get cryptocurrency?
You an buy cryptocurrency through an exchange, an app, a website, or a cryptocurrency ATM. Some people earn cryptocurrency through a complex process called "mining", which requires advanced computer equipment to solve highly complicated math puzzles.

Where and how do you store cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is stored in a digital wallet, which can be online, on your computer, or an external hard drive. A digital wallet has a wallet address, which is usually a long string of numbers and letters. If something happens to your wallet or your cryptocurrency funds- like your online exchange platform goes out of business, you send cryptocurrency to the wrong person, you lose the password to your digital wallet, or your digital wallet is stolen nor compromised- you're likely to find that no one can step in to help you recover your funds.

How is cryptocurrency different from U.S. Dollars?
Because cryptocurrency exists online only, there are important differences between cryptocurrency and traditional currency, like U.S. dollars.
  • Cryptocurrency accounts are not backed by a government. Cryptocurrency held in accounts is not insured by a government like U.S. dollars deposited into an FDIC insured bank account. If something happens to your account- for example, the company that provides storage for your wallet goes out of business or is hacked- the government has no obligation to step in and help get your money back.
  • Cryptocurrency values change constantly. The value of cryptocurrency can change rapidly, even changing by the hour. And the amount of the change can be significant. It depends on many factors, including supply and demand. Cryptocurrencies tend to be more volatile that more traditional investments, such as stocks and bonds. An investment that's worth thousands of dollars today might be worth only hundreds tomorrow. And, if the value goes down, there's no guarantee it will go up again.
Paying with Cryptocurrency?

There are ways that paying with cryptocurrency is different from paying with a credit card or other traditional payments.
  • Cryptocurrency payments do not come with legal protections. Credit cards and debit cards have legal protections if something goes wrong. For example, if you need to dispute a purchase, your credit card company has a process to help you get your money. Cryptocurrencies typically do not come with any such protections.
  • Cryptocurrency payments typically are not reversible. Once you pay with cryptocurrency, you can usually only get your money back if the person you paid sends it back. Before you purchase something, know the seller's reputation, by doing some research before you pay.
  • Some information about your transactions will likely be public. People talk about cryptocurrency transactions as anonymous. But the truth is not that simple. cryptocurrency transactions will typically be recorded on a public ledger., called a "blockchain". That's a public list of every cryptocurrency transaction- both on the payment and receipt sides. Depending on the blockchain, the information added to the blockchain can include details like the transaction amount, as well as the sender's and recipient's wallet addresses. It's possible to use transaction and wallet information to identify the people involved in a specific transaction. And when you buy something from a seller who collects other information about you, like a shipping address, that information can also be used to identify you later on.
How to avoid cryptocurrency scams
  • Only scammers demand payment in cryptocurrency. No legitimate business is going to demand you send cryptocurrency in advance- not to buy something, and not to protect your money. That's always a scam.
  • Only scammers will guarantee profits or big returns. Don't trust people who promise you can quickly and easily make money in the crypto markets.
  • Never mix online dating and investment advice. If you meet someone on a dating site or app, and they show you how to invest in crypto, or asks you to send crypto, that's a scam.
Investment Scams
Investment scams often promise you can "make lots of money" with "zero risk," and often start on social media or online dating apps or sites. These scams can, of course, start with an unexpected text, email, or call, too. And, with investment scams, crypto is central in two ways: It can be both the investment and the payment.
  • A so-called "investment manager" contacts you out of the blue. They promise to grow your money- but only if you buy cryptocurrency and transfer it into their online account. The investment website they steer you to looks real, but it's really fake, and so are their promises. If you log into your "investment account", you won't be able to withdraw your money at all, or only if you pay high fees.
  • A scammer pretends to be a celebrity who can multiply any cryptocurrency you send them. But celebrities aren't contacting you through social media. It's a scammer. And if you click on an unexpected link they send or send cryptocurrency to a so-called celebrity's QR code, that money will go straight to a scammer and it'll be gone.
  • An online "love interest" wants you to send money or cryptocurrency to help you invest. That's a scam. As soon as someone you meet on a dating site or app asks you for money, or offers you investment advice, know this: it's a scam. The advice and offers to help you invest in cryptocurrency are nothing but scams. If you send them crypto, or money of any kind, it'll be gone, and you won't get it back. 
  • Scammers guarantee that you'll make money or promise big payouts with guaranteed returns. Nobody can make those guarantees. Much less in a short time. And there's nothing "low risk" about cryptocurrency investments. So: if a company or person promises you'll make a profit, that's a scam.
  • Scammers promise free money. They'll promise free cash or cryptocurrency, but free money promises are always fake.

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