Evy Poumpouras was a secret service agent who served under Barack Obama and George Bush. She's here offering tips on how to avoid getting scammed during the Coronavirus lockdown.
EVY POUMPOURAS: Hi, I'm Evy Poumpouras, former Special Agent with the United States Secret Service and national security contributor. I'm here to offer some guidance and advice on how to stay safe. Times are changing and crime is changing with it.
So given what's happening, we're likely going to be seeing a shift-- a change in crime. Meaning you're going to be doing everything online now-- working, shopping, banking. And this is where we need to be careful. And here I'm going to share some tips and strategies to help you navigate this new world so that you're safe, not just physically, but also digitally safe.
We're going to start seeing a new form of scams. And they're actually starting to come out especially in states like New York, Washington, and California where the virus is hitting pretty hard. These are scams of which you'll be getting emails or calls telling you, hey, we've got medical supplies or face masks. Would you like some? And they're going to charge you a large amount of money.
Be wary of when they ask you to wire money. Anything where you have to do any type of direct deposit, or MoneyGram, or Western Union-- that's a huge red flag. Anything that's legit should either be by credit card or invoice. You're also going to be seeing scams now that the government's going to be giving money and where you'll be getting calls or emails saying, hi, we've got your money. We'd like to verify some information before the government can give it to you. Be careful. Anytime they're asking you names, social security, date of birth, anything like that-- home address-- hang up the phone. That is not the way they're going to be doing.
Some things to look out for. If you receive any emails, look for grammar or misspellings. Unfortunately, some of these fraud scams do come from overseas. So it's very difficult for law enforcement to deal with them, because they are in other countries. And also, we're a bit overwhelmed at the moment. In addition, normal fraud is going to be on the rise, too. So the traditional fraud that we see-- credit card fraud, banking fraud. Everything you're going to be doing now trends actually is online. If anybody calls you directly, emails you directly, what I want you to do is do not respond. Go online, get the true general customer service number. Do not respond to the numbers or emails or to the people on those phones.
Your passwords. I know you've heard this before-- if you haven't done it, now is the time-- change your passwords. A different password for every account. A minimum of 13 characters. And you know what-- go old school. Take a notepad and write down the password. Have it right there by your desk. Nobody can hack into that. Your security questions-- you know, what's the name of your pet, what town did you grow up-- all those things, I guarantee that other people know the answers to those-- ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends. Or people who follow you on social media. When you're doing your security questions, a good piece of advice is don't answer truthfully. Make up the answers, lies. Fabricate the answers. And again, write them down. This way, nobody can reset your accounts.
One other thing and this does break my heart to talk about this-- charities. Charities are a huge way in which people commit fraud. What they do is they'll take your compassion and your vulnerability in a time like this, where everybody wants to help, and it's the right thing to help, but you're not going to know where your money is going. Call your neighbors and see how you can help your community. Could you grocery shop for them? Could you give them some items that they may need? Maybe you've some extra toilet paper lying around. I'm sure people would be grateful for that.
I think the biggest thing is fear and panic. And it keeps us from thinking clearly, so we're thinking, I need to get my money, I need to get these masks, I need to do this. And criminals feed off of that. Take care of yourselves. Don't live in fear and in panic. You're going to make fear-based decisions and that's where we make mistakes.