Who doesn’t love to veg out on the couch with a favorite snack and a great show? If you’ve been paying attention to what’s trending on Netflix these days, you’ll see some common themes taken straight from the day’s headlines.
Of the top 10 Netflix shows that are most popular in the country right now, almost half document real life stories. Shows like The Tinder Swindler which documents the life of a conman who used the popular dating app Tinder to take an estimated $10 million from victims across Europe in a Ponzi scheme. Inventing Anna the wildly popular show from Shonda Rhimes about the notorious Anna Delvey (aka Anna Sorokin) the young woman who posed as a wealthy German heiress fooling the world of NY elites and stealing over $2 million in the process. And Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives. which recounts the story of Sarma Melngailis whose New York restaurant was the haunt of Hollywood A-listers like Alec Baldwin, Owen Wilson, Tom Brady, Gisele Bündchen and Anne Hathaway but it all fell apart thanks to her and her conman husband.
It’s the same storyline on a level most of us will never encounter, and it’s certainly riveting and entertaining to watch, but it also might make you wonder how this happens. How can smart, educated people be taken in this way? Even though you’ll likely never encounter an Anna Delvey, you likely will encounter a hacker at some point, so how can you protect yourself?
With 24/7 access to our phones and social media accounts, plus the huge shift to online shopping, banking, bill paying and the like, it’s a lot easier for people to gain access to us, so being educated is key in protecting yourself.
These seven tips can help you stay informed, safe, educated and protected so the only time you need to learn about a con story it’s while watching a TV show.
- Think before you click. You’ve probably received a text, email or message on social media with a link or photo that appears to be legitimate whether it’s from a friend, your bank or an institution that you trust. The only problem is that it could be fake. This is a common method of cyberfraud known as phishing which is an attempt to trick the recipients of these messages to share sensitive data in response to a warning or request to verify information about their account. To be on the safe side, don’t click on any links sent to you. Instead go straight to your friend or the institution’s official website and log in there to access the message or look up their phone number and contact a representative directly.
- Question, don’t just trust. The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true it probably is,” comes into play when you’re interacting on social media or the internet. It’s hard to understand why people would so willingly trust the subjects of these docuseries that we like to watch but it’s a human trait that psychologists have studied time and again. We feel guilty if we don’t trust our friend when they send a message to us on social media that might seem a bit out of character, but in order to protect yourself it’s always wise to question. Better to double check than end up having your account hacked by a seemingly harmless video sent from your friend’s Facebook account without their knowledge.
- Pay close attention to social media messages. Another method of cyberfraud is using social media direct messages which may appear to be from one of your friends but upon close inspection something seems “off.” Keep a close eye on the language used in direct messages and be on alert if a friend is using different words or even asking for money. Do not reply but rather call them or speak to them in person. Social media accounts can be hacked and even though your friend’s social media account looks the same, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Also, if one of your existing friends on social media sends another friend request do not click on it. Contact your friend on the phone or in person not through the messaging feature to confirm that it’s them.
- Don’t use identifying info in your network and device names. Try to connect to the Wi-Fi in most neighborhoods and you’ll see a list of your immediate neighbors names. Are you using your last name or other personally identifying information for your cell or home network? You might want to change that. Hackers can use that information to guess passwords so come up with something that would never identify you or your family. Are you sure that your finances are digitally secure? Here’s our checklist to make sure!
- Disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not in use. If you use Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to connect your devices to the Internet turn them off when you’re not using them. It’s a small task to ensure safety as it will prevent strangers from using your network or accessing devices without your knowledge. Also be very careful about home systems that are cloud based like Alexa and other smart home devices. These are convenient but can be connected when you’re not aware.
- Be smart about QR codes. A QR code means “quick response code.” We see them everywhere but anyone can put together a QR code and if you scan it into your phone you may be giving criminals access to your device. Only scan codes that you know are legitimate and it’s best that you do not scan codes you see in public as an added precaution. This also goes for teens who regularly scan codes. You may save them and you a whole world of pain by being cautious.
- Limit what you put on your car. Think about how much people can learn about you and your family just by driving behind you on the road. It’s fun to put bumper stickers and magnets on your car but you may want to think again when they identify your child’s school and other things that share who you are. Police have cautioned against this practice. Couple this information with your license plate information and a hacker could use those pieces of information to know more about you and give them a leg up it could also identify you for other forms of theft so just err on the side of caution.
Here at Bankers Life, we’re committed to keeping you informed about ways to protect yourself and your identity and financial information. Click here to learn how to protect yourself against data breaches and identity theft. Also check out our blog on estate planning for digital assets. Our representatives with Bankers Life can help protect you and your assets as you move toward retirement. Learn more about our services here.