Limited screen time is not a part of our ‘new normal’. With adults working from home and kids learning from home, we are online more than ever. Scammers are taking advantage of the crisis and trying to get access to your money and personal information. Here’s how to stay safe while you’re at home:
1. Be Skeptical
Scam emails and text messages may not always be as obvious as the old “Nigerian Prince” scheme. Some are very sophisticated and can seem legitimate. It always pays to do a little extra research before you click on something or respond to an email.
Keep in mind that financial institutions, health care providers, and governmental agencies will always contact you through writing via snail mail if they need something from you. No legitimate business will ever ask you for personal information like bank account numbers, social security numbers, or your birthday over email because email is not considered a secure form of communication. If in doubt, call the business that the email or text is from (using a phone number you have independently located, not one sent in the email or text) and ask them if they have been trying to contact you.
Some scammers are not so sophisticated, and if you read carefully, you will notice misspellings or strange sounding language. Outdated looking images or graphics can also be a tip-off. If your kids are spending a lot of time online, teach them to look for these signs of a scam and tell them to run any emails or texts past you before they respond or click.
2. Don’t Let Your Computer Catch a Virus
Life is crazy right now, but software maintenance is still business as usual. You should always keep your devices up to date. The latest software versions will be more secure and less likely to fall prey to viruses or other digital threats. Don’t just stop at your computer either. Make sure that every device in your household is protected by firewalls, antivirus software, and has automatic software updates enabled.
3. Watch Out For Your Kids
Right now, while your kids are both learning and playing online is an excellent time to talk about internet safety. Be aware of what your kids are doing and let them know that they can talk to you if they see anything that makes them uncomfortable. Teach them about online ‘stranger danger’ and make sure that they only communicate with people they know in real life.
Most devices come with easy to set parental controls that will allow you to limit the sites your kids can visit, and that will keep adult content from accidentally popping up. If your child is communicating with friends over social media, talk to them about cyberbullying and what they should do if they see something concerning.
If your children have their own phones, teach them how to recognize scam phone calls and texts, and make sure they know never to give out personal information. You might also want to check that your kids are using passwords that are complicated enough to be secure. Passwords should be unique to every member of the household, and your kids shouldn’t reuse passwords that you use.
We all have a lot on our minds right now, but if you take a few minutes to think about cybersecurity today, you’ll save yourself hassle down the road.