06 N2004P32005CIt’s unfortunate but true: During this period of economic uncertainty, one of the busiest “industries” has been financial scamming. It goes on even during normal times, so you’ll want to know what to look for and how to defend yourself.

For starters, just how widespread is financial fraud? Consider this: In 2019, more than 3.2 million fraud cases were reported to the Federal Trade Commission, with identity theft being the most common type of fraud, accounting for about one-fifth of the overall cases. And fraudulent new accounts — mortgages, student loans, car loans and credit cards — amounted to about $3.4 billion in 2018, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.

To prevent yourself from being victimized, consider the following suggestions. They are certainly not exhaustive, but they should prove useful.

• Watch out for unsecure websites. Make sure a website is secure before entering any payment or personal information. Look for sites that start with HTTPS, rather than those with just HTTP, which are not secure and can be hacked. But even a site with HTTPS can still be used by scammers, so, if you don’t recognize the name of the company or group that’s requesting your information, do some research to make sure it’s legitimate.

• Review your credit reports. As mentioned above, the fraudulent opening of new accounts is a big source of financial scams. To be sure nobody has opened new accounts under your name, try to review your credit reports at least once a year. You can get them for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.

• Follow up on fraud. If you’ve already been victimized by having new accounts opened in your name, contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion) and place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit file.

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