Updated March 8th, 2023
Cybercrime is a type of criminal activity that targets computers, networks, devices, or bank accounts. In most cases, cybercriminals are looking for ways to extort or steal money from victims, but there are lots of different types of cybercrime to be aware of.
The first step to avoiding cybercrime is to be fully informed of the different types out there, who to report incidents to, and the security measures you can take to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Types of cybercrime
Phishing is one of the most common cybercrime types and is also one that people are likely to fall for. A phishing scam involves an email, phone call, or text that's sent to trick the victim into thinking they're being contacted by an official institution such as a bank, the government, or their workplace.
The scammers try to get security or personal information from victims or try to trick them into clicking on a link that steals personal data.
A common example is when you get an email from your "bank" asking you to click the link to enter your personal details to log in to verify a "suspicious transaction." In reality, the link you click is malicious, and your data can be stolen in seconds.
How to avoid phishing scams:
Remember that official institutions won't contact you out of the blue to ask for security information. If you receive what you think is a suspicious link, do not click on it. Instead, contact the real bank/company independently to verify.
Malware attacks are when a computer or network is infected with a virus. This can be used to steal confidential information such as passwords or bank details stored on a computer. Malware comes in a few different forms, including ransomware, spyware, Trojan horses, or worms.
This type of attack requires access to a computer device or network, so some common methods attackers use to do this include getting people to click on links, download a file, or even plug a USB drive in that delivers the malware.
How to avoid malware:
You will need to protect your system with antivirus software and firewalls to reduce the likelihood of cybercriminals gaining access. These pieces of software can also detect malware quickly, so you can try to get rid of it before it causes real damage. It's also important to remain vigilant over suspicious emails, texts, links, downloads, and drives.
Ransomware is a type of malware that is used to lock you out of your own files or devices, with a demand for payment to restore access. It's an attack that hits individuals, businesses, and organizations and can have devastating results.
A ransomware attack means that the cybercriminal must somehow gain access to a device or network, which can happen in a few different ways. This could involve users clicking on a malicious link or on an attachment in an email or via social engineering, which involves tricking the victim into giving the criminal access or sensitive information.
How to avoid ransomware:
One of the most common tips for avoiding cybercrime is to avoid clicking on any links that are even slightly suspicious. For example, clicking a link or attachment in a spam email. Other measures you can take involve installing antivirus software and firewalls to protect your devices and networks.
How to report cybercrime
You can report internet-related crimes to government authorities, including:
Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) —If you are a victim of an online crime, file a report with the IC3 as soon as possible. The sooner you do this, the more likely you are to recover lost funds.
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) — Report any online scam, company, or unwanted calls to the FTC as soon as you can. The FTC will then give you some information on what to do next. These reports are shared with law enforcement partners for investigative purposes.
Department of Justice (DOJ) — You can report any internet-related crime or scam to your local authorities. The DOJ has a list of resources and advice on who to report the crime to, depending on the nature of it.
You can also report scams to your state's consumer protection office if you have lost money in a scam.
Make sure you note important details, including how the crime was carried out, the methods used, whether they gained access to your files, and any other contact you have had with the cybercriminal.
Who does cybercrime happen to?
The truth is that it can happen to anyone. Even those who believe they are wise to common scams can fall victim to convincing phishing scams. All it takes is a moment of distraction for you to click on a link.
How often does cybercrime happen?
Cybercrime is increasingly common and isn't as rare as you might think. According to Norton, more than half of all consumers have experienced cybercrime, with one in three falling victim in 2021.
Protect yourself from cybercrime
The best thing you can do to avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime is to educate yourself on the tactics that criminals use to gain access to your systems. Remember to:
Engage in good password practice — Don't repeat passwords across sites or choose something that's easy to guess (e.g., using your pet's name or birthday).
Install antivirus software and set up firewalls — Antivirus software can eliminate or alert you to most threats and make it more difficult for a cybercriminal to gain access.
Be vigilant over links, downloads, and suspicious communications — If you ever receive a suspicious email, text, or phone call, don't engage. Verify the information yourself by calling your bank, for example, to check if they've recently been in touch. If they say "no," then report the attempted attack.
Be aware of common scams and crimes — Over time, some criminals will change their tactics. For example, a common scam during COVID was a scam around stimulus checks. The FBI has a list of common scams and crimes to be aware of.
For more advice on protecting yourself, visit Netspend's security center to get the latest information and tips.