Among the reasons to be glad 2020 is nearing an end: It was a banner year for scammers. Along with the usual assortment of thefts, COVID-19 fraud ranged from fake product offers and bogus testing ploys to rip-offs involving stimulus checks.
As always, your best defense against fraud is you. While planning your New Year's resolutions, put these to-dos on your list. Some you can do right now, while others are behaviors to adopt. Together they'll help protect you and those you love in the coming year.
Improve your password protection
Many online retailers, financial companies and service providers offer “dual-factor authentication.” (After you successfully enter your name and password, they send you a unique code via text or email that you have to enter before you can get to your account.) Turn it on as part of your account settings. It takes an extra step, but it's a veritable fortress of extra security.
Protect your mail
Informed Delivery is a free service from the U.S. Postal Service in which the agency sends, via email, images of letter-sized mail expected to be delivered to you soon. This is a great way to monitor that nothing is stolen by ID thieves from your mailbox. Visit InformedDelivery.usps.com to sign up.
Check your credit report
Because of the pandemic, all three major credit reporting agencies — Equifax, Experian and TransUnion — are offering free weekly online reports through April 2021. You will be able to determine if someone is using credit in your name and to fix mistakes. Go to AnnualCreditReport.com.
Filter your phone calls
To help curtail the flood of spam calls, enter all your trusted contacts into your smartphone. This way, when the phone rings, your caller ID will let you know if it's one of them. Do not answer if you don't know the callers; if it's important, they will leave a message. Even better: Research call-blocking apps on your smartphone and talk to your phone company about what it can do for you.