Chances are you know someone who has been a victim of cybercrime or you’ve been one yourself. Almost half of American adults had their personal information exposed by cybercriminals in 2015, according to the Ponemon Institute.
Hackers are becoming more sophisticated and better at tricking people into giving up their personal information. The most common method used for cyberattacks is email. They carefully craft them to look real and trustworthy, but in reality, they are carrying malware, viruses, and more.
Common internet scams & how to avoid them.
Phishing: We already covered what phishing is and how to avoid it. If a message urges you to take immediate action or it contains an offer that sounds too good to be true, then trust your instincts. Don’t reply or click any links and offer up your personal information. Also, don’t call the phone numbers provided in the email. Instead, look up the business in a search engine like Google and call the phone number officially listed on their site. They should be able to verify if the email is legitimate. If they aren’t aware of the email, then it’s probably best to delete it immediately.
Ransomware: Ransomware is a type of software designed to block your access to your computer system until you pay the creator a certain amount of money. To protect your data (things like your music files, documents, and photos) make sure you back them up regularly to an external hard drive or another physical storage device. Avoid opening any attachments in emails from untrusted sources or clicking suspicious links.
Malware and Viruses: Malware is a term that refers to a variety of malicious software, including viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and spyware, designed to gain access to or damage your computer. Again, avoid opening any attachments or clicking suspicious-looking links in untrusted emails to protect your data.
Identity Theft: The act of wrongfully obtaining and using another person’s information that involves fraud or deception. This includes using stolen credit card information to make purchases. When shopping online, make sure the site you are entering your card information on is secure (look for https or a lock in the address bar). Also, see if your card provider offers virtual cards that can be used once for online purchases and then canceled.
Tips to protect yourself.
If it looks suspicious, it’s probably malicious. Links in emails, on social media, in blog posts, and even online ads are the most common way criminals access your computer and personal information. If you don’t know the source or something just seems off, trust your instincts and don’t click anything. Instead, send that email straight to the trash or keep scrolling right past the post.
Make your passwords long, strong, and unique. Create passwords that are at least 8 characters long, contain a number, capital letter, and a special symbol, like ! or @. Make sure you use a unique password for every account too, because if you don’t, a hacker only has to break into one of your accounts to get into all of them. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, there are secure password managers available that can store all of them for you and you only have to remember one master password to access them.
Keep it private. This not only refers to not sharing your personal information directly with others or leaving it in unsecure places, but also to how you access your personal information. Avoid checking your bank account or accessing sensitive accounts, like your email, from a public computer or while connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Strangers can look over your shoulder at your screen or use software that allows them to capture passwords entered over public Wi-Fi.
If you do become a victim of cybercrime, be sure to contact your bank and the local authorities immediately. You can also file complaints with the following government organizations:
FTC.gov – Report any fraud or identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
SSA.gov – If you think someone is using your Social Security number, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA).
IC3.gov – If you are a victim of cybercrime, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3).