Fraud awareness: Some tips for keeping scammers at bay

For businesses and individuals alike, vigilance against fraud is an absolute must. It is the first step in fraud protection, for if you are not on guard, who will be? Think of all of the ways criminals seek your data. Perhaps it is a scam phone call purporting to be from the IRS. Maybe it's an online breach of one of the world's biggest email providers. Or perhaps it's just someone going through your garbage and coming away with financial information.

According to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service, around 17 million Americans were the victims of some type of identity theft in 2014. As expected, a lot of the fraud centered around financial information acquired from credit cards or bank statements.

However, there are some steps you can take to prevent yourself from being a victim of fraud. Here are three simple ones from the Federal Trade Commission, the preeminient consumer watchdog in the U.S.:

Do a fact check: Often scammers try to pretend they are someone you know and trust. However, financial institutions and other reputable companies will never solicit information from you over the phone or email. If you get a message from someone claiming to be a charity or company you do business with, find the company’s number and call them yourself to verify the organization's credibility.

Make sure you are protected when you pay. If you pay by credit card, you can dispute charges, and you will get a call from the credit card company if your card is getting used in a location you don’t normally visit. Credit cards usually have fraud protection built into them, making them a good way to make payments.

Don’t make snap decisions. People out to take your money like to apply the pressure to “act now." They want you to make a decision in a hurry before you have a chance to really think about it. Before you agree, do an online search for the company or talk to someone you trust. More than likely, that special offer doesn’t turn out to be so special.

With so many seen and unseen threats to data lurking, awareness is key. And breaches occur, it's a good idea for businesses to have cyber insurance -- and for individuals to have an identity protection service at a minimum.

The Plexus Groupe can help in both regards. For more information, contact a client executive at 847-307-6100, or contact us via the Web. We're here to help -- and we're happy to help.