— In honor of Cyber Security Awareness Month, we have collected six valuable tips to help you and your family stay cyber secure: Create strong passwords. In fact, instead of a password, create a passphrase. Make it something unique to you and easy to remember. For example, if you’re a pie lover, your passphrase could be Ilovechocolatepie. Like to golf? How about Golfismyfavoriteactivity. Think of something that would be easy for you to remember, but hard for a thief to crack. …

— Social media scams come in many shapes and sizes. Two fast-moving scams we’ve seen lately are fake ads on social media sites and promotions for phony genealogy sites. The goal with both is to steal from you, whether it’s your hard earned money or your identity. How it Works: With online shopping scams, con artists post ads for too-good-to-be-true deals on hot items, like designer eyewear. The ads can show up as a sponsored post in your feed, or as …

— Equifax, one of the nation’s three major credit bureaus, recently announced that a data breach likely compromised the information of approximately 143 million Americans.  The media swirl that ensured has left many people confused and alarmed. What You Should Know As a credit-reporting agency, Equifax collects information about consumers and how we handle our financial obligations. Equifax and other credit bureaus sell this information to lenders and credit-scoring companies to determine our eligibility for loans and lines of credit, and …

— Smishing is when scammers use text messaging to lure targets into sharing credit card numbers and other personal information. The name comes from combining Short Message Service or SMS (the technology used for text messages on cell phones) with phishing. How it Works: Scammers send hundreds, or even thousands, of text messages at a time in the hope that even just a few recipients take the bait. The text is urgent – you need to click on a link or …

— Scammers have gotten good at convincing unsuspecting victims that they have a computer virus. Their end game is to take your money or gain access to your personal financial information. How it Works:   You get a call or see a pop-up message on your computer warning that you have a virus (the caller will claim to be from Microsoft or Apple or another well-known tech company). They convince you to give them remote access to your computer so they …

— The federal government grant scam has been around for years but now, scammers are finding new targets through social media. How it Works:   You see posts from people on Facebook claiming they have been awarded tens of thousands of dollars in a grant from the federal government. They suggest that you could be eligible, too. You call the listed phone number, give some personal information, and are told you qualify — all you have to do is send a …

— IRS imposters are back at their old game – but this time, with a new twist. The IRS has reported that this current scam is being seen all across the country. How it Works:   Scammers call taxpayers to claim the IRS has already mailed them two certified letters about an outstanding tax bill, but the letters were returned as undeliverable. The scammer threatens immediate arrest unless the tax bill is paid using a prepaid debit card. The scammer falsely …

— As severe weather begins to pop up across the northern plains, so do crafty con artists! The stormy summer months are prime time for home repair scams. The general ruse involves someone coming to your door and offering to do work on your home, typically at a steep discount, but never really delivering on the promise of ‘improvement’. How it Works:   A con artist representing themselves as a contractor comes to your door and claims to have just finished …

— There are plenty of reputable contests and sweepstakes out there (including some from AARP). But there are also a lot of bad players looking to bilk you out of your money. Just today South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley released a statement warning consumers that winners of the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes do not receive phone calls about their prizes. How it Works:   You’re told you’ve won a prize but: You have to pay a fee to collect your …

— Did you know, if you buy something on Amazon.com,* you’re not necessarily buying directly from Amazon.com? Our Fraud Watch Network helpline recently worked with a buyer who was scammed by a third-party seller on Amazon.com. She ultimately got her money back, but she could have saved herself substantial time and efforts had she been armed with the following tips from AARP Fraud Watch Network! What You Should Know:   In addition to selling products from its store, the retail giant …