Iowans are being warned about identity theft scams with yet another new twist. Most of us know thieves can wipe out bank accounts and get credit cards in our names, but some are now changing our health records by posing as their victims to get medical services.
Susan Grant, spokeswoman for the Consumer Federation of America, says Iowans have to be diligent in protecting themselves. “Be really careful when you’re using free public wi-fi,” Grant says. “It’s convenient but it’s not the secure especially if you’re doing things like banking or shopping.”
More than 13-million Americans were victims of identity theft last year. Grant says cyber-crooks can access your personal information, but they can also get your list of contacts and try to scam your friends. “You want to make sure that you’re securing your devices not only for your own protection but for the protection of other people that you care about,” she says.
When using social networking sites like Facebook, never leave the account signed in. Grant says scammers could pretend to be you, claim there’s an emergency and use your Facebook account to ask your friends for money.
You’re just asking for trouble, she says, if you use a password like “a-b-c-1-2-3” or “let me in” or as crazy as it may seem, “password.” “Many people use passwords that are their birthdays or their pet’s name or have some other personal connection to them,” she says. “If they can guess your passwords, they can get into that account perhaps and other accounts that you have.” One way to help protect your accounts is to change your passwords frequently and to use different passwords for every account.