The Financial Hardship Department Scam – Don’t Fall Victim

Recently, many Americans have reported receiving robocalls, social media ads, and spam emails claiming they qualify for government subsidies or stimulus checks worth thousands of dollars from an entity called the “Financial Hardship Department“. Unfortunately, this is a scam designed to steal your personal information and money. This comprehensive guide will provide an in-depth look at how the Financial Hardship Department scam works, how to identify it, and most importantly, how to protect yourself.

Overview of the Financial Hardship Department Scam

The Financial Hardship Department scam is a fraudulent scheme currently targeting struggling Americans with promises of stimulus checks, subsidies, and other government aid. Scammers are capitalizing on financial hardships caused by inflation, the ongoing pandemic, and rising costs to mislead victims into providing personal information and payments.

This elaborate scam uses robocalls, social media ads, and spam emails to contact victims. The messages promise prequalification for government stimulus checks worth thousands of dollars, subsidies for medical expenses or living costs, and even approval for loans upwards of $90,000.

The messages come from entities calling themselves the “Financial Hardship Department,” “Treasury Department,” “Bureau of Deficit Reduction,” or other official sounding agencies. The contacts, whether phone calls, Facebook ads, or emails, use urgent language stating funds are being held for the recipient but the deadline to claim them is expiring.

For example, robocalls received by victims state:

This is the Financial Hardship Department calling with an important message regarding your eligibility for $6,400 in government aid. These stimulus funds have been preapproved for deposit but are being held on a first come, first served basis. Press 1 now to speak with a representative and provide your personal information to claim these funds immediately. Only a limited number of subsidies are left so call now before the deadline expires.

Similar social media ads on Facebook contain videos of celebrities discussing a special government program providing up to $5,600 in stimulus checks for Americans making under $50,000 per year. One ad even used a deepfake video of President Biden announcing the stimulus program.

The emails follow the same format, identifying recipients by name and claiming they have qualified for medical and living expense subsidies. One email with the subject line “IMPORTANT: Stimulus Subsidy Qualification” states:

Our records indicate you have qualified for the 2024 Financial Hardship Subsidy providing up to $5,200 in medical, dental and living expense assistance. These preapproved funds are currently being held in your name but will expire if you do not confirm eligibility right away. Please click here to confirm your personal details, banking information, and provide your SSN to claim these stimulus subsidies. This is time sensitive so act now before the deadline passes!

Sincerely,
The Financial Hardship Department

These tactics instill urgency in recipients, hoping the promise of guaranteed money will lead them to click links, call numbers, and provide sensitive information quickly without deeper scrutiny. However, the Financial Hardship Department does not exist and the US government is not providing any extraordinary stimulus checks or aid packages being advertised.

Unfortunately, many victims are falling for these scams and losing significant funds or having identities stolen. By understanding the scam tactics and following recommendations to avoid falling victim, Americans can protect themselves from the repercussions of this fraud. Keep reading to learn more about how the scam operates and how to identify contact from the fake Financial Hardship Department.

How the Financial Hardship Department Scam Works

The scammers behind the Financial Hardship Department scam utilize sophisticated techniques to convincingly pose as government agencies providing aid. Through well-crafted robocalls, social media ads, emails, and live representatives, they lend legitimacy to their fraud, collect personal information, and ultimately steal funds.

Here is an in-depth, step-by-step overview of how this scam typically operates:

Step 1: Mass Contact Through Robocalls, Emails, Social Media

The initial contact depends on casting as wide a net as possible through automated and mass communication tactics. By flooding phone lines, inboxes, and social media feeds with their scam offers, they hope to snare greater numbers of victims.

Robocalls will go out to thousands of phone numbers at once with urgent voicemails instructing recipients to call back to claim guaranteed stimulus subsidies of $5,600 or more. The robocalls spoof official looking phone numbers to increase perceived legitimacy.

At the same time, the scammers pay for sponsored ads on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and other platforms. These ads pretend to be real government programs providing stimulus checks or financial aid. Using doctored videos and fake celebrity endorsements helps convince victims the offers are authentic.

Spam emails sent en masse also mimic government correspondence, telling recipients they have prequalified for special hardship funds, subsidies, or loans. The emails include logos, language, and formatting to look like official communications.

Casting such a wide net allows them to get the initial hook into as many potential victims as possible.

Step 2: Requests for Personal Information Over the Phone

When a victim calls the robocall back number or contacts the phone/email provided, they reach a live scammer posing as a government representative. The scammers have a script to follow to continue the ruse.

They confirm eligibility for the advertised stimulus checks, subsidies, or loans. Then they instruct victims to provide personal details to process the aid, including:

  • Full legal name
  • Date of birth
  • Physical address
  • Social security number
  • Employer details
  • Annual income
  • Banking/routing numbers

They may claim this info is standard requirement to deposit the funds or confirm the victim’s identity. However, it enables them to steal identities and commit financial fraud.

A 67 year old woman targeted named Linda stated: “They knew so many of my details already that I thought it must be real. I ended up giving them my social, my bank accounts, everything before realizing it was a scam.”

Step 3: Remote Access Scams

Other instances of the Financial Hardship Department scam skip the information collection calls entirely. The initial emails or robocalls instead provide a customer support number to call for assistance claiming the promised funds.

Once victims call this number, scammers posing as tech support agents answer. They pretend there is a problem processing the stimulus money, and the victim’s devices have been compromised by hackers attempting to steal the funds.

The scammers urgently insist the device needs to be accessed remotely to secure the money. They guide victims through downloading screensharing apps which are actually trojan viruses, granting complete access of the device.

From this remote vantage point, the scammers can steal banking passwords, personal files, contacts, and install more malware without detection.

Step 4: Charging Fake Fees

Both phone and remote access scams will inevitably lead to a request for fake fees before funds can be released. These fees must conveniently be paid through non-reversible means like gift cards, Bitcoin, wire transfers, etc.

Common fees include:

  • $200 “electronic bank transfer fee”
  • $500 “security clearance fee”
  • $1,000 “loan insurance fee”
  • iTunes or Amazon gift cards to “install identity verification software”

Any form of upfront payment to receive a government stimulus check or subsidy is a scam. Unfortunately, many victims already invested in the scam end up losing substantial amounts at this final step.

Step 5: Stealing Funds and Identities

In the final phase, the scammers leverage all the collected information and access to steal money, open fraudulent accounts, and damage victim’s finances and credit:

  • They loot bank accounts through account details obtained.
  • Personal information is sold on the dark web or used to open fake credit cards.
  • They use remote access to computers to steal additional financial account passwords.
  • Malware covertly tracks keystrokes, stealing more sensitive data.
  • Victims’ identities are used to file for fraudulent tax refunds.

The impacts of this financial and identity theft can stay with victims for years. Understanding each step can help prevent more Americans from becoming unsuspecting victims.

What To Do If You Are a Victim of the Financial Hardship Department Scam

If you suspect you have fallen for the Financial Hardship Department scam and provided personal information or payments to the scammers, it is crucial to take immediate steps to protect yourself from financial damages. Time is of the essence, so enact the following recovery plan as soon as possible:

Step 1: Contact Banks and Freeze Accounts

Your first call should be to your bank. Alert them that you have been scammed and fraudulent charges may hit your accounts. Request that they freeze your accounts and block all transactions not authorized by you directly. This prevents the scammers from stealing additional funds or using account numbers fraudulently.

If you have other financial accounts like retirement, investment, or crypto, call them as well with the same instructions. Freeze everything to lock it down tight.

Step 2: Change Passwords and Enable Two-Factor Authentication

If you provided account passwords or authorized remote access, you must change your passwords immediately. Use completely new, complex passwords unique from your old ones.

Enable two-factor or multi-factor authentication on all your online accounts for an added layer of security. This requires you to verify your identity through additional steps like SMS codes or biometric scans when logging in.

Step 3: Contact Credit Bureaus and Freeze Credit

Contact Experian, TransUnion and Equifax to place credit freezes. This blocks new credit inquiries in your name, preventing scammers from opening fraudulent accounts.

Also request current credit reports from each bureau. Identity any accounts or credit inquiries you don’t recognize and report them as identity theft.

Step 4: Scan Devices for Malware

If you downloaded any files, clicked suspect links, or allowed remote access, your devices may be infected with malware or spyware.

Run full system scans to identify and quarantine anything suspicious. If damage is too extensive, wiping systems entirely may be necessary.

Step 5: Obtain New Bank Account and Credit Card Numbers

Even with protections in place, the scammers may still have your original account numbers. To be safe, request your bank and credit card providers issue you brand new account and card numbers unrelated to compromised ones.

This makes the old numbers obsolete, protecting you from any lingering fraud attempts.

Step 6: File Reports with Authorities

File reports on identified fraud with the FTC and FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Provide any information collected on the scammers.

Also contact your local police department. Provide the incident report to banks when disputing unauthorized charges. Having a paper trail aids the recovery process.

Step 7: Ongoing Monitoring and Disputes

Keep close watch on all financial statements and credit reports over the next year. Look for any unusual activity and dispute promptly with supporting documentation from police.

Enable transaction notifications on accounts to stay aware. If new instances of fraud do occur, report each one to maintain the investigative paper trail.

Step 8: Consider Legal Action

If losses are substantial, you can explore civil suits to recover damages. An attorney can help build a case and identify if the scammers have recoverable assets. However, most cases won’t lead to significant monetary awards.

The most important steps are acting quickly to limit damages and prevent further fraud following a Financial Hardship Department scam. With vigilance, you can protect yourself and recover.

Recognizing Contact From the Fake Financial Hardship Department

While the scammers adapt their tactics over time, these indicators can help identify the scam:

  1. Name – References to the Financial Hardship Department, Treasury Department, or other official sounding names for non-existent agencies should raise red flags.
  2. Unsolicited contacts – Any unsolicited robocalls, emails, or social media ads prompting urgent action should be viewed skeptically. Verify the opportunity through official government channels.
  3. Promise of guaranteed funds – Claims that you are “pre-qualified” or “guaranteed” stimulus checks or other funds requires caution. Eligibility typically requires application or registration.
  4. Requests for personal information – Avoid providing Social Security numbers, bank details, or other personal info to unverified contacts. No legitimate agencies will request these outright.
  5. Upfront fees – Having to pay any sort of fee through gift cards, Bitcoin, wire transfers etc. in order to receive funds is a giveaway sign of fraud.
  6. High pressure tactics – Scammers want to eliminate doubts through overly urgent deadlines, limited time offers, threats of account closures etc. Disregard these.

Do not trust any unsolicited contacts, deal with verification requests cautiously, and never pay upfront fees. Check for these red flags to avoid the Financial Hardship Department scam.

How to Protect Yourself From the Scam

While the Financial Hardship Department scam can seem convincing, there are ways to protect yourself and avoid becoming another victim:

  • Avoid unknown links/numbers – Do not click links or call numbers in unexpected calls, texts, emails, voicemails, and social media ads promoting guaranteed funds. Verify through official channels.
  • Never pay fees – Government programs will never require upfront payments via gift cards, Bitcoin etc. to deliver aid or stimulus checks. Walk away if fees are requested.
  • Guard personal information – Do not disclose sensitive info like SSNs, bank details, or account logins without verifying the request through trusted channels.
  • Secure accounts – Use strong, unique passwords for all accounts and enable multi-factor authentication where possible. Monitor for unauthorized access.
  • Limit remote access – Never grant remote control of devices to unverified tech support contacts. This enables theft of sensitive data.
  • Check credit reports/accounts – Regularly check credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion and monitor financial accounts for fraudulent activity.
  • Report fraud – If scammed, act quickly to report unauthorized charges to banks and file reports with authorities to limit damages.

Exercising caution around sharing personal information, verifying offers independently, and monitoring for fraud are the best ways to avoid falling victim to the Financial Hardship Department scam.

Is Your Device Infected? Check for Malware

If your device is running slowly or acting suspicious, it may be infected with malware. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free is a great option for scanning your device and detecting potential malware or viruses. The free version can efficiently check for and remove many common infections.  

Malwarebytes can run on Windows, Mac, and Android devices. Depending on which operating system is installed on the device you’re trying to run a Malwarebytes scan, please click on the tab below and follow the displayed steps.

Malwarebytes For WindowsMalwarebytes For MacMalwarebytes For Android

Scan your computer with Malwarebytes for Windows to remove malware

Malwarebytes stands out as one of the leading and widely-used anti-malware solutions for Windows, and for good reason. It effectively eradicates various types of malware that other programs often overlook, all at no cost to you. When it comes to disinfecting an infected device, Malwarebytes has consistently been a free and indispensable tool in the battle against malware. We highly recommend it for maintaining a clean and secure system.

  1. Download Malwarebytes for Windows

    You can download Malwarebytes by clicking the link below.

    MALWAREBYTES FOR WINDOWS DOWNLOAD LINK
    (The above link will open a new page from where you can download Malwarebytes)
  2.  

    Install Malwarebytes

    After the download is complete, locate the MBSetup file, typically found in your Downloads folder. Double-click on the MBSetup file to begin the installation of Malwarebytes on your computer. If a User Account Control pop-up appears, click “Yes” to continue the Malwarebytes installation.

    MBAM1
  3. Follow the On-Screen Prompts to Install Malwarebytes

    When the Malwarebytes installation begins, the setup wizard will guide you through the process.

    • You’ll first be prompted to choose the type of computer you’re installing the program on—select either “Personal Computer” or “Work Computer” as appropriate, then click on Next.

      MBAM3 1
    • Malwarebytes will now begin the installation process on your device.

      MBAM4
    • When the Malwarebytes installation is complete, the program will automatically open to the “Welcome to Malwarebytes” screen.

      MBAM6 1
    • On the final screen, simply click on the Open Malwarebytes option to start the program.

      MBAM5 1
  4. Enable “Rootkit scanning”.

    Malwarebytes Anti-Malware will now start, and you will see the main screen as shown below. To maximize Malwarebytes’ ability to detect malware and unwanted programs, we need to enable rootkit scanning. Click on the “Settings” gear icon located on the left of the screen to access the general settings section.

    MBAM8

    In the settings menu, enable the “Scan for rootkits” option by clicking the toggle switch until it turns blue.

    MBAM9

    Now that you have enabled rootkit scanning, click on the “Dashboard” button in the left pane to get back to the main screen.

  5. Perform a Scan with Malwarebytes.

    To start a scan, click the Scan button. Malwarebytes will automatically update its antivirus database and begin scanning your computer for malicious programs.

    MBAM10
  6. Wait for the Malwarebytes scan to complete.

    Malwarebytes will now scan your computer for browser hijackers and other malicious programs. This process can take a few minutes, so we suggest you do something else and periodically check the status of the scan to see when it is finished.

    MBAM11
  7. Quarantine detected malware

    Once the Malwarebytes scan is complete, it will display a list of detected malware, adware, and potentially unwanted programs. To effectively remove these threats, click the “Quarantine” button.

    MBAM12

    Malwarebytes will now delete all of the files and registry keys and add them to the program’s quarantine.

    MBAM13

  8. Restart your computer.

    When removing files, Malwarebytes may require a reboot to fully eliminate some threats. If you see a message indicating that a reboot is needed, please allow it. Once your computer has restarted and you are logged back in, you can continue with the remaining steps.

    MBAM14

Your computer should now be free of trojans, adware, browser hijackers, and other malware.

If your current antivirus allowed this malicious program on your computer, you may want to consider purchasing Malwarebytes Premium to protect against these types of threats in the future.
If you are still having problems with your computer after completing these instructions, then please follow one of the steps:

Scan your computer with Malwarebytes for Mac to remove malware

Malwarebytes for Mac is an on-demand scanner that can destroy many types of malware that other software tends to miss without costing you absolutely anything. When it comes to cleaning up an infected device, Malwarebytes has always been free, and we recommend it as an essential tool in the fight against malware.

  1. Download Malwarebytes for Mac.

    You can download Malwarebytes for Mac by clicking the link below.

    MALWAREBYTES FOR MAC DOWNLOAD LINK
    (The above link will open a new page from where you can download Malwarebytes for Mac)
  2. Double-click on the Malwarebytes setup file.

    When Malwarebytes has finished downloading, double-click on the setup file to install Malwarebytes on your computer. In most cases, downloaded files are saved to the Downloads folder.

    Double-click on setup file to install Malwarebytes

  3. Follow the on-screen prompts to install Malwarebytes.

    When the Malwarebytes installation begins, you will see the Malwarebytes for Mac Installer which will guide you through the installation process. Click “Continue“, then keep following the prompts to continue with the installation process.

    Click Continue to install Malwarebytes for Mac

    Click again on Continue to install Malwarebytes for Mac for Mac

    Click Install to install Malwarebytes on Mac

    When your Malwarebytes installation completes, the program opens to the Welcome to Malwarebytes screen. Click the “Get started” button.

  4. Select “Personal Computer” or “Work Computer”.

    The Malwarebytes Welcome screen will first ask you what type of computer are you installing this program, click either Personal Computer or Work Computer.
    Select Personal Computer or Work Computer mac

  5. Click on “Scan”.

    To scan your computer with Malwarebytes, click on the “Scan” button. Malwarebytes for Mac will automatically update the antivirus database and start scanning your computer for malware.
    Click on Scan button to start a system scan Mac

  6. Wait for the Malwarebytes scan to complete.

    Malwarebytes will scan your computer for adware, browser hijackers, and other malicious programs. This process can take a few minutes, so we suggest you do something else and periodically check on the status of the scan to see when it is finished.
    Wait for Malwarebytes for Mac to scan for malware

  7. Click on “Quarantine”.

    When the scan has been completed, you will be presented with a screen showing the malware infections that Malwarebytes has detected. To remove the malware that Malwarebytes has found, click on the “Quarantine” button.
    Review the malicious programs and click on Quarantine to remove malware

  8. Restart computer.

    Malwarebytes will now remove all the malicious files that it has found. To complete the malware removal process, Malwarebytes may ask you to restart your computer.
    Malwarebytes For Mac requesting to restart computer

Your Mac should now be free of adware, browser hijackers, and other malware.

If your current antivirus allowed a malicious program on your computer, you might want to consider purchasing the full-featured version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware to protect against these types of threats in the future.
If you are still experiencing problems while trying to remove a malicious program from your computer, please ask for help in our Mac Malware Removal Help & Support forum.

Scan your phone with Malwarebytes for Android to remove malware

Malwarebytes for Android automatically detects and removes dangerous threats like malware and ransomware so you don’t have to worry about your most-used device being compromised. Aggressive detection of adware and potentially unwanted programs keeps your Android phone or tablet running smooth.

  1. Download Malwarebytes for Android.

    You can download Malwarebytes for Android by clicking the link below.

    MALWAREBYTES FOR ANDROID DOWNLOAD LINK
    (The above link will open a new page from where you can download Malwarebytes for Android)
  2. Install Malwarebytes for Android on your phone.

    In the Google Play Store, tap “Install” to install Malwarebytes for Android on your device.

    Tap Install to install Malwarebytes for Android

    When the installation process has finished, tap “Open” to begin using Malwarebytes for Android. You can also open Malwarebytes by tapping on its icon in your phone menu or home screen.
    Malwarebytes for Android - Open App

  3. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the setup process

    When Malwarebytes will open, you will see the Malwarebytes Setup Wizard which will guide you through a series of permissions and other setup options.
    This is the first of two screens that explain the difference between the Premium and Free versions. Swipe this screen to continue.
    Malwarebytes Setup Screen 1
    Tap on “Got it” to proceed to the next step.
    Malwarebytes Setup Screen 2
    Malwarebytes for Android will now ask for a set of permissions that are required to scan your device and protect it from malware. Tap on “Give permission” to continue.
    Malwarebytes Setup Screen 3
    Tap on “Allow” to permit Malwarebytes to access the files on your phone.
    Malwarebytes Setup Screen 4

  4. Update database and run a scan with Malwarebytes for Android

    You will now be prompted to update the Malwarebytes database and run a full system scan.

    Malwarebytes fix issue

    Click on “Update database” to update the Malwarebytes for Android definitions to the latest version, then click on “Run full scan” to perform a system scan.

    Update database and run Malwarebytes scan on phone

  5. Wait for the Malwarebytes scan to complete.

    Malwarebytes will now start scanning your phone for adware and other malicious apps. This process can take a few minutes, so we suggest you do something else and periodically check on the status of the scan to see when it is finished.
    Malwarebytes scanning Android for Vmalware

  6. Click on “Remove Selected”.

    When the scan has been completed, you will be presented with a screen showing the malware infections that Malwarebytes for Android has detected. To remove the malicious apps that Malwarebytes has found, tap on the “Remove Selected” button.
    Remove malware from your phone

  7. Restart your phone.

    Malwarebytes for Android will now remove all the malicious apps that it has found. To complete the malware removal process, Malwarebytes may ask you to restart your device.


Your phone should now be free of adware, browser hijackers, and other malware.

If your current antivirus allowed a malicious app on your phone, you may want to consider purchasing the full-featured version of Malwarebytes to protect against these types of threats in the future.
If you are still having problems with your phone after completing these instructions, then please follow one of the steps:

Frequently Asked Questions About the Financial Hardship Department Scam

1. What is the Financial Hardship Department scam?

The Financial Hardship Department scam is a fraudulent scheme targeting Americans with promises of government stimulus checks, subsidies, and other aid. Scammers use robocalls, social media ads, and emails to contact victims and convince them to share personal information and pay fees to receive the nonexistent benefits. Any communication referencing the Financial Hardship Department or claiming you are guaranteed government funds is an attempted scam.

2. How do I recognize contact from the fake Financial Hardship Department?

Watch for these common indicators:

  • References to the Financial Hardship Department, Treasury Department or other official sounding fake agency names.
  • Unsolicited robocalls, voicemails, emails or social media ads promising guaranteed stimulus checks or aid funds if you act quickly.
  • Claims that you are “pre-qualified” or “guaranteed” benefits without applying.
  • Requests for personal information like SSNs, bank details etc.
  • Demands to pay fees through gift cards, Bitcoin, wire transfers etc. before receiving funds.
  • Threats of quick deadlines or account closures if you do not act immediately.

3. What methods do the scammers use?

The initial contact is through robocalls, social media ads, or mass emails. These communicate an urgent deadline to claim guaranteed government funds. Victims then contact fake representatives who collect personal information or demand remote access to devices. Ultimately fees are requested via gift cards, Bitcoin etc. before any funds are released.

4. What happens if I call the robocall back or follow email links?

You will reach a scammer posing as a government agent. They will ask you to confirm personal details to process “stimulus funds”, but really intend to steal your identity and money. If you contact phone/email addresses in their messages, you will become a victim.

5. Why won’t the government request fees before providing stimulus aid?

The government never requires upfront payments of any kind to deliver stimulus checks, tax refunds, or aid funds. Needing to pay gift card or Bitcoin fees to get your own benefits is always a scam tactic.

6. What should I do if the Financial Hardship Department contacts me?

Do not call back robocalls, click email links, or provide any personal or financial information. Report the contact attempt to the FTC. Check your credit reports and bank statements for any signs of fraud. Avoid any further engagement or payment.

7. I already paid fees to the Financial Hardship Department – what now?

If you paid fees via gift card, report it immediately to the retailer and law enforcement. If you paid another way, contact your bank. Freeze accounts, scan devices for malware, change passwords, check credit reports for fraud, and file police reports. Act quickly to limit damages.

8. How can I protect myself from the Financial Hardship Department scam?

Never pay upfront fees, share personal information, or grant remote access in response to unsolicited calls/messages. Verify offers directly through official government channels. Use unique passwords, monitor financial accounts, and check credit reports regularly to detect fraud.

9. Where can I report the Financial Hardship Department scam?

File detailed reports with the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and FBI at IC3.gov. Contact your local police department as well. Provide all available details on the scammers and fraud activity when reporting.

10. Will I get my money back if I paid fees to the scammers?

Likely not, but report it to authorities and your bank immediately for the best chance. File charges, dispute unauthorized transactions, and consider legal options. Preventing further damages is crucial. Monitor for any other signs of identity theft moving forward.

Stay vigilant and avoid quick aid offers that ask for upfront fees or personal details. Report scam contact attempts to protect yourself and others.

The Bottom Line

The Financial Hardship Department scam misleads Americans struggling financially with promises of guaranteed stimulus checks, subsidies, and other aid that does not actually exist. Skilled scammers use robocalls, social media ads, emails, and fake government representatives to steal personal information and funds from victims.

If contacted by the fraudulent Financial Hardship Department, or similar fake agencies, avoid their links and numbers. Never pay upfront fees, share sensitive data, or grant remote access to protect yourself from fraud. Monitor accounts and credit reports closely and report any suspicious activity right away.

While economic challenges may persist for many, real solutions require patience and wisdom, not falling for scams promising easy cash. Share this guide to help prevent others from becoming victims and strip scammers of their power.

How to Stay Safe Online

Here are 10 basic security tips to help you avoid malware and protect your device:

  1. Use a good antivirus and keep it up-to-date.

    Shield Guide

    It's essential to use a good quality antivirus and keep it up-to-date to stay ahead of the latest cyber threats. We are huge fans of Malwarebytes Premium and use it on all of our devices, including Windows and Mac computers as well as our mobile devices. Malwarebytes sits beside your traditional antivirus, filling in any gaps in its defenses, and providing extra protection against sneakier security threats.

  2. Keep software and operating systems up-to-date.

    updates-guide

    Keep your operating system and apps up to date. Whenever an update is released for your device, download and install it right away. These updates often include security fixes, vulnerability patches, and other necessary maintenance.

  3. Be careful when installing programs and apps.

    install guide

    Pay close attention to installation screens and license agreements when installing software. Custom or advanced installation options will often disclose any third-party software that is also being installed. Take great care in every stage of the process and make sure you know what it is you're agreeing to before you click "Next."

  4. Install an ad blocker.

    Ad Blocker

    Use a browser-based content blocker, like AdGuard. Content blockers help stop malicious ads, Trojans, phishing, and other undesirable content that an antivirus product alone may not stop.

  5. Be careful what you download.

    Trojan Horse

    A top goal of cybercriminals is to trick you into downloading malware—programs or apps that carry malware or try to steal information. This malware can be disguised as an app: anything from a popular game to something that checks traffic or the weather.

  6. Be alert for people trying to trick you.

    warning sign

    Whether it's your email, phone, messenger, or other applications, always be alert and on guard for someone trying to trick you into clicking on links or replying to messages. Remember that it's easy to spoof phone numbers, so a familiar name or number doesn't make messages more trustworthy.

  7. Back up your data.

    backup sign

    Back up your data frequently and check that your backup data can be restored. You can do this manually on an external HDD/USB stick, or automatically using backup software. This is also the best way to counter ransomware. Never connect the backup drive to a computer if you suspect that the computer is infected with malware.

  8. Choose strong passwords.

    lock sign

    Use strong and unique passwords for each of your accounts. Avoid using personal information or easily guessable words in your passwords. Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) on your accounts whenever possible.

  9. Be careful where you click.

    cursor sign

    Be cautious when clicking on links or downloading attachments from unknown sources. These could potentially contain malware or phishing scams.

  10. Don't use pirated software.

    Shady Guide

    Avoid using Peer-to-Peer (P2P) file-sharing programs, keygens, cracks, and other pirated software that can often compromise your data, privacy, or both.

To avoid potential dangers on the internet, it's important to follow these 10 basic safety rules. By doing so, you can protect yourself from many of the unpleasant surprises that can arise when using the web.

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