You’re probably doing a lot of your shopping online if you can. Around 33% of people are purchasing more on the web than they were before, according to a recent survey from Experian. Vulnerable populations have found grocery delivery and other remote services a safer option for handling their everyday needs. At the same time, local and statewide orders to “shelter in place” have placed many retailers on temporary shut-down or forced them to an online-only business model.
But there are risks to taking your typical business to the web. Here are three of the latest threats to your credit and identity amid COVID-19.
- Suspicious online businesses. Scammers are getting very good at creating offers and websites that seem legitimate. Many will use tactics such as “timed” deals or hot new products for discount prices to reel people in and grab their personal information, which is why it is up to the consumer to be particularly wary.
It is a good idea to avoid businesses and websites with which you are not already familiar. If you do need or intend to purchase something from a new vendor, double-check their credentials with the Federal Trade Commission or a service like Australia’s ScamWatch. It also helps to check the age of the domain being used on Whois Lookup. You should also pay attention to the address bar to be sure the URL is using https:// rather than http:// and that any page looking to gather your user information includes a padlock symbol.
- Check your credit regularly. If you are one of the millions of people who have had to negotiate with utilities, loans, credit cards, or other bill providers to make adjustments to your regular payment plans, you will want to keep an eye on your credit.
Provisions in the CARES Act protect you from any adverse reporting for your current inability to make regular payments so long as you have reached out and made arrangements. But the size of many of these companies can cause a delay between customer service and credit reporting. Some individuals who have followed all the appropriate steps may still see a ding on their credit score.
Fortunately, if you are monitoring your credit regularly, you can catch the issue fast and report it as incorrect. Free credit monitoring tools such as creditkarma.com, credit.com, and Credit Sesame can provide you with access to view your scores and any activity being reported.
- Be even warier of cyber crime. The FBI has warned that cyber criminals are especially targeting at-home workers right now. Their primary outreach seems to include phishing emails, text messages asking for sign-ins, and cold calling. There has also been an increase in individuals hacking into unsecured Zoom conferences to display adult videos and crude imagery.
So, be extra careful screening your phone calls. Be sure you aren’t opening strange emails. And do not click on the links in text messages from unknown phone numbers.
Things are strange enough right now without risking your finances or your identity. While shopping and working online may be safer in terms of exposure to disease, remember there are still risks to taking your life to the internet. But, as long as you are aware of the risks and take precautions to stay safe, you are less likely to make yourself a target.