Speed and convenience…a couple of decades ago, these terms would remind of you an automobile, most likely a car. But not anymore. All these terms are now so embedded into our day-to-day life with the ‘internet of things’; without which, the world might seem to freeze. We are increasingly relying on ‘internetworking’ devices and the world-wide-web for everything from shopping and communicating, to banking and bill paying. It is, however, important to know that the benefits of faster and more convenient cyber services also brings with it the dangers of cyber-related crimes. It is extremely important and helpful to know about cybersecurity and the steps you can take to keep your information safe on the internet.
Common cyber-related crimes include identity theft, frauds, and scams. Identity theft involves crimes where someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data to open fraudulent credit card or bank accounts, charge credit card accounts, withdraw funds, or obtain new loans. The results of identity theft not only includes financial losses but also includes substantial difficulties with credit scores and costs to restore credit history and to correct the erroneous information in credit reports.
In addition to identity theft, every year millions of people become victims of frauds and scams that often start with an e-mail, text, or phone message that appears to be from a legitimate and trusted organization. The message typically asks consumers to verify or update personal information. Similarly, criminals create fake websites for things like credit repair services in the hopes that consumers will enter personal information. Despite having some general knowledge about cyber security and awareness, people still click on emails or links from unknown sources. The statistics of this unsafe online behavior is alarming. A study conducted by the Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU) revealed that users are more vulnerable to phishing attacks that was originally assumed.
Source: Friedrich-Alexander University (FAU)
General tips for cybersecurity
Did you know that October is designated as the National Cybersecurity Awareness Month? The Stop.Think.Connect campaign is a public awareness effort to guide the nation to be more vigilant and practice proper cyber etiquette while using the internet. In addition to being mindful, we can take steps to minimize the access other people have to our information on the internet by following these simple steps:
- Lock your computer when you are away from it. Beware of the eavesdroppers and install privacy screens to your devices as appropriate.
- When using public internet services, disconnect from the internet when you are finished. Log off or sign off your credentials and erase any cookies if possible.
- Protect against viruses, spyware and other malicious software that might install without your knowledge on your device when you visit an unknown website.
- Use only secure networks
- Establish security practices to prevent sensitive information from leaking out. Shred and destroy any copies and printouts of your personal information promptly.
- Educate employees, students and children about cyber threats and cybersecurity. Make it a practice to refresh and update them with new systems new threats.
- Backup all your data and make at least one copy and store it securely. This will save you a lot of time and effort to restore your data in case of a disaster or malfunction.
General tips to avoid Frauds & Scams
In addition to following good internet safety practices, we must also be vigilant about the numerous scams we are exposed to on a daily basis when it comes to sharing and storing personal and financial information online. The following tips can help prevent you from becoming a fraud victim:
- Avoid clicking on the suspicious looking text or email links because the link may install malware and allows thieves to spy on your computer and gain access to your personal information.
- Be suspicious of any e-mail or phone requests to update or verify your personal information. Legitimate organizations do not solicit updates in an unsecured manner. Confirm a message is legitimate by contacting the sender.
- Assume that any offer that seems too good to be true, is probably a fraud.
- Beware of Disaster-Related Financial Scams. Fraudsters take advantage of catastrophic events to lure people into donating to restoration efforts by claiming to be from legitimate charitable organizations, but in reality, are only attempting to steal money or valuable personal information.
- Be on guard against fraudulent checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, or electronic funds transfer sent to you from unknown senders with requests for you to wire back part of the money. They are using the communication as a bait to lure you into giving them your personal information.
- Check your security settings on social network sites. Make sure you block out strangers and people you do not know in person.
- Research any “apps” before downloading. Don’t assume an “app” is legitimate just because it resembles the name of your bank or other company you know.
- Be leery of any offers that pressure you to send funds quickly by wire transfer or involve another party who insists on secrecy.
List of Top 20 Countries with the highest rate of Cybercrime
Measures to take when online fraud occurs
No matter how careful we are, sometimes anyone can be a victim of a data breach, fraud or scam. Knowing what to do immediately upon recognizing the breach can save you a lot of time and money:
- Contact your law enforcement: It is important to contact the state, local, or federal consumer protection agency. By promptly reporting a fraud, you improve the chances of recovering what was lost and help law enforcement.
- Contact your bank: If you have made a payment to a scammer online, inform your bank about the transaction as soon as you realize it. In some cases, you may be able to retrieve the funds if you made an online transaction.
- File a fraud report: Violations of federal laws should be reported to the federal agency responsible for enforcement. Consumer complaints are used to document patterns of abuse, allowing the agency to take action against a company. The FTC Federal Trade Commission enters the Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
- Update your malware software: If you opened a scam-related web page or email, chances are you provided an entry point to the scammer into your system. Run a security scan on your computer to check for viruses and update the anti-malware software.
While online fraud is vastly prevalent and cannot be completely avoided, it certainly helps to be vigilant and aware of the dangers it poses. There are also valuable resources to assist anyone concerned about cybersecurity. Some of the websites include Fraud.org, and Getnetwise.org, both nonprofit organizations working towards bringing awareness of online fraud and to promote awareness about cybersecurity.