How to Avoid Becoming an April Fool

April 2, 2019

If you survived April Fool’s Day without falling for any kind of joke or ruse, kudos to you for keeping your nonsense meter finely tuned. In the internet age, every April 1st has become a sort of test to see who’s alert enough to separate pranks from legitimate information, and the risks have changed enough that it’s easy to pine for a simpler time when an innocent joke was simply that and nothing more.

But when it comes to monitoring your money, it’s not a bad rule of thumb to just assume that every day is April Fool’s Day. We now store, interact with, and even share so much of our personal information online that literally anyone could be a target for someone seeking to separate you from your wealth, no matter how modest that wealth might be.

By now we hopefully have enough internet savvy to avoid the classic “Nigerian prince” scam and decline to send or wire money to unknown sources. But how many of us still readily share our Social Security number over the phone or have texted a picture of our debit card to a spouse who’s trying to make an online purchase?

There are multiple basics everyone should follow to secure their data, and these methods are being updated regularly as would-be thieves devise fresh ways to exploit new technologies before the masses have even gotten comfortable with them. Here are a few key tactics to remember:

  • Don’t share your information—including account numbers, passwords, or even your date of birth—with anyone unless you know and trust who they are (or who they represent).
  • Be wary of emails that look like they may be coming from a trusted financial institution, but pressure you into “acting fast” or providing some bit of personal information before they “freeze your account.” Clicking links from phishing emails can put you and your money at great risk.
  • Beware of clever tricks, such as robocalls that look like they might be from someone you know.
  • Hit the pause button even when you’re talking to a trusted source, such your doctor’s office, and always ask why they need the information they’re requesting, and how they’re planning to use it. You may receive some exasperated responses to this insistence, but you never want to be the one person who didn’t think through a request for sensitive information and ended up paying the price for it.

As an organization whose primary mission is to protect the income you’ve earned and saved, Colorado PERA will always err on the side of extreme caution. In fact, PERA provides members the option to add multi-factor authentication to their PERA accounts. Using multi-factor authentication makes a hacker’s job harder because accessing your account combines something you know: your personal information, with something you have in your possession: your phone. You should also consider adding it to any other accounts that offer that option, like your bank.

If you want to stay informed on the latest scams affecting Coloradans, sign up for Fraud Alerts and Tips at www.stopfraudcolorado.gov. This site is a product of the Colorado Attorney General’s Office and has many resources on how to report and fight fraud in our state.