Be on the lookout for emails and texts demanding payment.
Here are five scams making the rounds this spring.
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> This is prime tax fraud season. The IRS reminds you to ignore calls and texts demanding a tax payment or threatening to cancel your social security number because of an overdue tax bill. Call the IRS or visit irs.gov if you receive an unexpected bill or refund.
> Also be cautious before responding to unexpected COVID-related emails. The cyber firm Palo Alto Networks says fraudsters are sending millions of phishing emails to consumers and healthcare workers about scheduling vaccination appointments, attempting to collect personal information.
> The FBI says today's most expensive cybercrimes happen when a crook impersonates someone in authority at work and instructs an employee to pay an invoice. Nearly $2 billion was lost last year because employees authorized bogus payments.
> Google faces a lawsuit in California over tracking what users do online even when their web browser is set to "incognito" mode. Google claims users have given permission for that tracking to occur.
> Don't accept friend requests from people you don't know — or are already friends with — on Facebook. The platform says it is now removing 1/2 billion fake Facebook accounts every month.
"My friend's email was hacked. How does that type of attack happen and how does one protect from this kind of assault?"
Emails are usually stolen because the user's password was easy to guess. A stolen email password will mess up your life. Here are clues your email has been hacked: you get a "password change confirmation" email you didn't ask for, you can't log-in to your email account, and your friends get start getting emails from you asking for money. (of course, that's assuming you're not asking them for money.) Time for immediate action.
• Right now, before you become a victim, protect yourself, set up a phone number where your email provider can text you a message with a link to change your password.
• Too late for that? Do a web search on "how to recover a stolen password" for the email app you use (Gmail, Apple Mail, Yahoo Mail, Outlook, and so on).
• Make sure your new email password is at least 15 characters long, can't be guessed easily, and includes special characters (such as ^@!*&#).
• Don't use your email password anywhere else.
• Enable "two-step authentication" on your email app so you must confirm a new password on your phone before it can be changed.
• Run an anti-virus scan using software like McAfee, Norton, BitDefender or Avast on your computer.
"I will be traveling to another state and staying in an Air B&B for several weeks while I look at purchasing a new home. Will I need to obtain a VPN? If I do need it where can I get it and how do I install it?"
Your home Wi-Fi network is probably safe if you use a major provider, but on the road, who knows? A VPN is an app that you purchase online or in your app store, install and use when you're online. Installing a VPN on your computer and phone will encrypt what you do online, so fraudsters can't intercept it. There are many reliable brands including NordVPN, ExpressVPN, SurfShark, and TunnelBear. Most cost around $10 a month. Some VPNs are free, but may slow down your browsing or include pop-up ads.
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