The content is accurate at the time of publication and is subject to change.
With many of us making financial resolutions, keeping an eye out for scammers can help us keep hard earned money where it belongs – in our pocket. In keeping with this theme the AARP Fraud Watch Network has come up with tips to help people protect themselves, ranging from freezing your credit file, which many people never think to do, to curbing your chatter on social media.
Being proactive is the key, according to AARP. "Scammers don't take vacations like the rest of us," AARP Illinois communications manager, Gerardo Cardenas said. "They work year-round to take advantage of consumers at their most vulnerable to steal valuable information and money. Making smart choices and being aware of potential frauds or scams shouldn't stop because a new year has begun."
Ready, set, go-Freeze your credit
One of the best ways to get the jump on hackers and scammers is to freeze your credit file. That way if you do have a run in with identify thieves it can thwart their plans or at least minimize damage. When you freeze your credit it restricts peoples access to your credit report. But you can unfreeze it for certain financial institutions, potential employers or periods of times, this way if you apply for a loan or credit card, and have a background check but on your terms.
When you do this you can still get your credit score, it does not affect that at all. To get started you must reach out to all three of the credit reporting agencies -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion – to request a security freeze.
Think more, be less social and do some spring cleaning early
No matter what time of year it is checking your credit report is always in style, and according to AARP you should check it three times a year. It’s a great way to see if anyone has opened up a bogus account in your name. You can get your free reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
AARP also suggests thinking before you act, whether it’s someone telling you that you won a lottery you can't remember entering, or you’re going to be arrested for not responding to a jury duty notice or something else. These are popular emotion-invoking scams, designed to get you to send money to thieves right away or get you to give them your personal information.
The organization also suggests being a little less social on your social media streams, when it comes to giving out personal information. Thieves sometimes use names of family members discovered on social media to trick grandparents into wiring money to help out a loved one. So maybe hold back key information, including your birthday, hometown, and the high school you went to.
Here are a few more tips:
• Check your wallet, don't carry cheat sheets with passwords in it, and leave your Social Security card at home. Also blank checks, Medicare card, and spare keys should all be kept at home too.
• Change your passwords change every six months or so.
• File your taxes as soon as you can because tax scams are very popular this time of year. With these scams thieves apply for your refund and get them, so beat them to the punch by filing early.