grant-mcnuttUnfortunately, data thieves don’t take a break during the Holidays. In fact, that is when they increase in bogus email schemes that seek to steal your hard-earned money or personal information.

Believe it or not, the most common way for cybercriminals to steal money, bank account information, passwords, credit cards, and Social Security numbers is to simply ask for them. Every day, people fall victim to phishing scams or phone scams that cost them their time and their hard earned cash.

How to Protect Yourself From Phishing and Email Scams

Here are a few steps you can take to protect against phishing and other email scams. When reading emails, you should:

1. Be skeptical and constantly vigilant.

Never open a link or attachment from an unknown or suspicious source. Even if the email is from a known source, the recipient should approach with caution. Cyber crooks are good at acting like the IRS, trusted businesses, friends and family.

Remember, criminals may have compromised your family or friend’s email account and now have begun using their email contacts to send phishing emails. Therefore, it may appear to be legitimate but think to yourself why a friend or family member is going to seek your personal info. The answer is THEY’RE NOT. Be on constant alert.

2. Double check the email address.

They might also be spoofing the address with a slight change in text. For example, using as opposed to Merely changing the “m” to an “r” and “n” can trick you if you are not being constantly vigilant.

3. Know that the IRS Doesn’t Use Email. 

Please note that the IRS doesn’t contact taxpayers by email to ask for personal or financial information. This includes asking for information via text messages and social media channels. The IRS does not call you and threaten lawsuits or to have you arrested.

4. Do not click on hyperlinks in suspicious emails.

When you are in doubt, you should not use hyperlinks, but instead go directly to the source’s main web page. You should also remember that no legitimate business or organization will ask for sensitive financial information by email.

5. Use security software.

Use security software to protect against malware and viruses found in phishing emails. Some security software can help identify suspicious websites that are used by cybercriminals.

6. Use strong passwords to protect online accounts.

I urge you, with any type of online account, to review new, stronger standards to protect your passwords. Doing so will help protect against savvy cybercriminals who want to access your account and steal your identity.

How to Build a Better Password

Here are 3 Steps you can follow to build a better password:

Step 1: Use the power of association.

Identify associated items that have personal meaning and use them in your passwords.

Step 2: Make unique associations.

Passphrases should be words that can go together in your head, but no one else would ever suspect.

  • Good example: Items in a living room such as BlueCouchFlowerBamboo.
  • Bad example: Names of children or pets.

Step 3: Create a passphrase that you can picture in your head.

The key is to create a passphrase that is hard for a cybercriminal to guess, but easy for you to remember.

Use multi-factor authentication when offered. Two-factor authentication means that in addition to entering a username and password, the user must enter a security code. This code is usually sent as a text to your mobile phone. Even if a thief manages to steal your username and password, it is unlikely the crook would also have your actual phone.

Contact a Bankruptcy Attorney for Help Today

The holiday season is tough enough financially for you to also worry about your identity being stolen or funds from your already bleeding bank account being drained dry by some lowlife cyber crook. If your budget does not allow you to enjoy the holidays and/or you are struggling to pay your bills each month, contact us to discuss your options for dealing with your other debts via Bankruptcy.

We can answer all your questions regarding Chapter 7 Bankruptcy, Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, stopping a foreclosure or wage garnishment, avoiding liens, stopping lawsuits, discharging medical debt, personal loans, payday loans, credit card debt, etc. We can alleviate your stress! We want to help and we can help you!

Grant McNutt
Written by Grant McNutt

Grant McNutt is a Managing Attorney at the Bond & Botes Law Offices in Florence and Haleyville, Alabama. He holds a Bachelor of Science from the University of Alabama, and a Juris Doctorate from the Birmingham School of Law. He has been practicing Consumer Bankruptcy Law since 1999.Read his full bio here.

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