If you are like me, you get LOTS of phone calls from unknown numbers. I have friends all over the planet so I had to sit down and enter their numbers and information into my phone so I could just stop accepting calls from numbers I didn’t recognize.
There is a reason for this. Phone scams are becoming more sophisticated and with the resources available to them, more likely to be designed to skim information from your conversation and use it in online purchasing or other forms of shopping where your voice could be utilized and construed as agreement.
Use an unexpected greeting.
My first line of defense: know who’s calling you. If you don’t know the number, it probably isn’t someone you know. But if you answer it, don’t start your conversation off with “Yes.”
When I don’t recognize the number, I respond with “Ghostbusters, whaddaya want?” All my friends know me, and recognize this as a valid greeting.
Any response which does not match the nature of the question, are immediately hung up on.
Grill the caller.
If I choose to answer the call, I am very careful to reveal nothing about myself, while I determine if this call is a legitimate one. Calls from the IRS, or any other government service can be ignored. Threats from government agencies tend to come on paper, especially if you owe them money.
No one can help you with your computer over the phone, especially if you haven’t ever talked to them and even if you DO have a virus, these are not the people you want to open your computer up to.
In short, your telephone is now one more vector for scammers, hackers, phishers and other kinds of phone scammers to try and separate you from your money.
Know whose on the other end before you pick up the phone. If you can configure your phone to send unknown numbers to voicemail, that is the best way to go. Scammers don’t leave messages.
Say something unusual to ferret out the bots.
When in doubt, it is always good to respond to a caller you don’t recognize with something completely bizarre to see if you can determine if it is an automated service (which have grown so good, it is hard to tell them from a real person.)
“Would you like smallpox with that?”
“Hi, I’m a Pastafarian. Have you heard of the Noodley goodness of our Lord and Savior, the Flying Spaghetti Monster?”
Questions like these reveal just how problematic calling agencies have become and will almost always reveal a computer trying to find a way to convince you to use, buy, or give away information to them.
Remember Fox Mulder’s advice: Trust no one (on your phone.)
The last thing you want to remember about your smartphone is: It isn’t just a phone, it’s a computer. When you download applications to your phone you are giving programmers access to the information stored on your phone.
Always do your best to get reputable applications on your phone. Monitor the permissions applications ask for before you install them. If the permissions seem excessive, this may be your first indication there is something wrong with this application.
Check online reviews and reputable magazines. You may have to do a bit of online detective work to be certain an application is safe to use. It won’t you to know more about the apps you allow on your phone.
If you find your phone begins to act strangely, remove the app immediately. If your browser begins posting strange things, remove the app immediately. Only load one app at a time on your phone, to better monitor their behavior.
Back it up, routinely.
Most importantly: Back up your data on your phone. Should your phone go rogue thanks to a new but problematic application, you have the capacity to erase and restore your original settings, minus your data (which you surely store in the cloud somewhere, right?)
Get some security software and antivirus software you can trust. It may not be much but any defense is better than none at all. Right now, most people don’t understand their phone is a vulnerability they aren’t even thinking about yet.
Be mindful of online financial transactions with your phone.
This last statement may be a bit controversial, but I am okay with it. Don’t use your phone to shop online, use the bank online, or do any kind of financial transaction online. Not unless your phone has security software five layers deep.
Why? Despite the fact companies are wanting you to use your phone this way, it enables a host of ways for your phone to be used without your permission if a hacker can get your phone’s permissions and log on information.
Or worse, finds your physical phone and there is nothing preventing them from using your online social media because you use automated logins for all your services. For a time, they can know everything you know, go everywhere you go and do anything you can.
If you must use your phone this way, do not store your passwords in the phone or the browser. Establish a logon signin that is strong and complex. Treat your phone as the potential key to your financial and personal life that it is.
Lock it up. Keep it safe. Don’t use anything you can’t vet. Back it up regularly. Set it up with your vendor and be prepared to turn it off if you lose it.
Hard to hear but you can’t say you weren’t warned. I probably didn’t cover half of what you need to know, but this is a good place to start.
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