Help protect vulnerable Georgians against cybercriminals this holiday season

Fraud and scams can happen all year long, but they tend to increase during the holidays – often targeting Georgia’s most vulnerable, like older adults. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues leaving many older adults isolated, it’s more important than ever that family caregivers, friends and neighbors remain vigilant of possible scams targeting their loved ones.   

Georgians should follow these tips to help protect themselves from cyber-criminals this holiday season:  

Online Shopping 

  • Do not use public Wi-Fi for any shopping activity. Public Wi-Fi networks can be very dangerous, as they are not secure. Hackers can potentially access your usernames, passwords, texts, emails and other personal information. 
  • Only purchase items online from websites you trust. Be careful using links from a search engine, as they can be falsified to look like a legitimate business site. 
  • Always use a credit card, not a debit card when purchasing online. Debit cards are linked directly to your bank account and put you at greater financial risk if a criminal were to obtain this information. Credit cards offer better reimbursement and protection in the case of fraud. Before entering your personal or financial information to make a purchase online, ensure that the site you are on is legitimate and can be trusted. Look in your browser’s address bar for an icon of a locked padlock, usually to the left of the URL.  
  • Use a secure password for your accounts, and do not share your login information. Many online companies offer two-factor authentication, which enhances security by requiring more than just your password to sign in. For example, a code is sent via SMS (text message) to your phone in addition to a password to verify your identity. 

Phishing 

  • Never give out your financial or personal information over the phone to someone who initiated the call. Only give information on a call which you placed and make sure you are speaking with a reputable representative at the institution. 
  • Be wary of common scams. The “Grandparent Scam” involves a caller stating that your grandchild has been arrested and needs money. Other examples include the “Social Security Scam,” where criminals pose as Social Security officials and advise that your Social Security number has been compromised; and the “Senior Grants Scam,” where they tell seniors they are eligible for a grant of $20,000 or more, they just need to provide their bank account number to have the money deposited. 
  • Most banks allow you to set up purchase alerts using either email, text message or both. If you observe a suspicious purchase, contact your issuer immediately. 
  • Check your credit card and bank accounts twice a day, every day. Review your transactions and report any fraudulent or questionable charges as soon as you notice them. 

Payment scams 

  • Be cautious of sellers and websites that demand payment solely through gift cards. Scammers sometimes encourage shoppers to conduct wire transfers, allowing criminals to quickly receive illicit funds. Credit cards provide several layers of security against fraud and are typically the safest way to conduct online shopping. 

Charity scams 

If you or someone you know falls victim to a scam or cyber-attack, report it immediately. Adult Protective Services is the state entity charged with investigating all reports of abuse, neglect and/or exploitation of older persons (65+) or an adult (18+) with a disability who does not reside in long-term care facilities. To report abuse of elder persons and/or adults with disabilities, please call 1-866-55AGING (1-866-552-4464) press "3" or file a report online. Note: The online reporting form is not compatible with Internet Explorer 10. Victims of holiday scams are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI at www.ic3.gov