Consumer Alert: Protecting your social media accounts

Published: Oct. 22, 2017 at 10:13 AM CDT
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October is Cyber Security Awareness Month and the Wisconsin Department of Consumer Protection reminds you that your social media accounts could provide a tremendous amount of information for a scammer to use in their ploy.

We've told you many times in our Target 2 Consumer alerts about the 'grandparents scam.'

That's where a scammer calls pretending to be a grandchild on vacation and tells a story about being in trouble or in an accident.

Then, they ask the grandparent to wire the money without telling anyone.

Consumer protection recommends if you're sharing your vacation pictures and details of any personal information, it's best to adjust your privacy settings for your accounts to block your content from strangers.

"One in 18 older adults who live independently in the community fall prey to financial fraud and scams each year," said Attorney General Brad Schimel.

"As the aging population grows and more seniors get online, criminals will double down in their attempts to exploit this vulnerable population. Prevention is critical to avoid becoming a victim of financial exploitation and we must remain vigilant in educating our state's seniors about common scams."

Here are some tips from the Attorney General to stay safe while online.

- Create passwords that are 12 characters or longer. You can utilize a paraphrase or sentence that you can remember with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.

- Vary your passwords and store them in a safely secured place that is away from your computer station or devices.

- Make sure all your devices including phones and tablets are password

protected and locked. These devices can be stolen and utilized to extract personal information if not properly secured.

- Never click on links in emails that you cannot verify are from a legitimate source. This is a common type of scam known as phishing, where scammers extract personal information from you. If you are in doubt it is best to delete or ignore the item.

- Be wary of urgent messages that require immediate action. For example, a message that tells you that you owe the government money or your computer needs repairs. Criminals often try to misrepresent that they are a legitimate source like the Internal Revenue Service or a well-known business.

- Pay close attention to privacy settings on social media and be aware of what you share online including sensitive personal information that can be utilized by criminals to exploit you.

Attorney General Brad Schimel launched a Task Force on Elder Abuse, which met for the first time in October.

Part of the mission of the task force is strengthening cross-system efforts to investigate, prosecute, and prevent financial exploitation of Wisconsin seniors.