CPA David Young of the New York State Society of CPA’s revealed six common ways criminals steal from you and what you can do to prevent it Monday during News 8 at Sunrise.

The first method Young discussed was phone calls. “Phone calls are fairly common, because these days they’re calling cell phones as landlines become less popular,” he said. “The biggest thing is, if you don’t recognize the phone number, don’t answer it. It’s unlikely the scammers going to leave you a voicemail. The easiest course, if you do get a lot of phone calls, you can actually register yourself on the ‘Do Not Call Registry.'”

The internet is fertile territory for criminals. “There’s a lot of things you’ve got to be careful of,” warned Young. “A lot of social media accounts, you’ll see these lists go around – what’s your favorite teacher? where did you go to high school? what’s the mascot? – I would avoid answering those types of questions. Those are the very questions that people use for your secret questions to recover your password. If you see that, don’t answer it. Also, you’ve got to be very careful about going on public Wi-Fi. If you go on a public Wi-Fi, the bad guys could sit close by or nearby, and use a packet sniffer to get all your passwords and usernames. That’ll be an easy way for them, at a later time, to get into your account. I would avoid that, and employ a two-factor authentication where you not only need your username and password, it’ll actually send a push notification or a text to your cell phone.”

Young said be wary of criminals seeking your information through email. “They’ll send you an email that might appear from a vendor, perhaps Walmart, or Amazon, or something similar to that. It’ll look very legit, and it’ll ask you to reset your password. Well, it’s really not. It’s going to redirect you to a new web page. If you look carefully, you’ll look and see it goes to something very similar to your vendor, but it’ll be spelled slightly different, or have some slight difference. That’s actually redirecting you to capture your username or password. Phishing is a very, very, very easy way to steal usernames and passwords.”

You also need to be wary of certain apps seeking personal information. “Many of the apps you get will want to see a lot of information; all your contacts,” Young explained. “You have to ask yourself, is this actually an app, or is it malware? Why would a flashlight app need access to all of your contacts to know where you are at all times? You may want to consider, before you install the app, is this something that I really need? If it does get installed, what access to information do they have? Is it really needed?”

Young said sending a text spam is illegal, and that’s another way criminals try to get at you. Don’t click on it. It will likely install malware on your cell phone. Most major carries will allow you to report the spam by forwarding the message to 7726 (or SPAM) free of charge.

Beware of skimmers as well. Young said credit and debit card skimmers account for more than $350,000 stolen funds every day. Skimmers are devices that fit over the credit card reader of ATMs, gas pumps or a terminal. The device will send your credit/debit information to the scammer. He advised staying away from machines that are not located in publicly visible and well lit areas.

In summary, you can’t rid yourself of scams, but you take take proactive steps to keep criminals at bay:

Install anti-virus/malware software and keep it up to date

Update your operating system with security patches

Never click on a link that you don’t know where it came from

Check the privacy settings on your social media accounts

Use two factor authentication

Only use secure encrypted websites to send personal information

Never use public Wi-Fi to send any information

Use a VPN connection

Back up your data in case you need to wipe your device

Register on the National Do Not Call list

For more information about making good financial choices, visit the New York State Society of CPA’s website, click here.