Sun Editorial: New Jersey residents fear crime — digital crime

Phone calls from the “IRS” and emails saying our bank accounts have been “compromised” — we all should be wary of scammers, but we shouldn’t fear them.

Ever get a phone call from the “IRS” stating the cops are coming for you if you don’t buy a few gift cards to pay off your “debt”? How about an email saying your bank account has been compromised? All you have to do is click a link and enter your personal information to clear everything up.

These are scams. And, according to a recent study, a lot of New Jersey residents are afraid of them.

Security company Safewise recently ranked New Jersey №6 in the nation when it comes to residents fearing crime. However, we don’t really fear property crime or even violent crime. We fear digital crime.

Maybe we should. The survey said both New York and New Jersey had digital crime rates above the national average.

Give credit where it’s due: Scammers can be very creative. They can sound legitimate when saying your computer has been infected by a virus they can clean up, but only if you give them remote access to your computer. Their emails can be persuasive when informing you of a purchase you never made and asking you for everything from log-in information to your credit card number so they can reverse the charges. They can use “spoofing” technology to make it seem they are contacting you from a legitimate agency, when, of course, they’re not. And they steal millions of dollars every year.

There are dozens of tips on the internet about how to avoid getting ripped off. Never give out personal information over the phone or follow links in emails that demand such information. Use a shredder. Limit personal information on your social media accounts. Or simply ignore the calls and emails altogether.

If you’re really in doubt, hang up the phone or delete the email and contact the agency or group in question directly. In other words, you call or email them at their verified numbers or email addresses, not the other way around.

We all should be wary of scammers. They’re out there and smart. But we shouldn’t fear them.