Given how new, relatively speaking, the internet is, it is pretty astonishing to consider just how much it has impacted and shaped our collective lives. Pretty much everything we do, from grocery shopping to dating and conducting our financial affairs, is undertaken via our desktops and mobile devices.
There is a certain amount of liberation that comes with the revolutionary steps we, as a society, are taking, but there should also be a sufficient amount of caution to be considered as well.
While it would be wrong to be fearful of every single click you make online, you do need to be aware of the genuine dangers that exist. It’s now the wild wild west, but it would be safe to say that the scammers that operate online have become a far more organized and effective threat and one that should be mitigated as much as practically possible.
With that in mind, here are some golden rules and insights to consider every time you go online.
Always Use Anti-Virus Protection
This should be a given, but you’d be surprised how many people choose to go online without some form of anti-virus protection. This is either through choice or ignorance, but it isn’t a policy we’d endorse.
The use of such software is highly recommended, especially for those who conduct their financial matters online, which is pretty much all of us. If you are checking your online banking accounts via a device or method that doesn’t even have a basic anti-virus system or firewall software, then you are taking a monumental risk.
Use a Password Manager Service
Adhering to a robust password protocol is advised. This means, at the very least, not using the same password for all your accounts and preferably not a password that is easily guessed by nefarious individuals and systems that know precisely how to crack your ‘code.’
If you use a password manager, you are putting another barrier in front of a potential scammer and additionally making your life easier. A password managing service makes it easier for you to effectively run the many accounts that we all now have and makes it that little bit harder for people to get to your key information.
Make the Most of Additional Online Tools
If you run a company or office, then you need to be very wary about the protection of your key data and that of any individuals who access it. This may mean you need to better vet any potential employees that you bring in to work for you.
One way of helping in this regard is to use services that run checks on those you may consider bringing on board. There are many strong brands and providers that offer these services; for example, you can learn more on peoplelooker here, as they are one of the most highly-regarded players in the field.
Don’t Access Sites and Accounts from More Than a Couple of Devices
Get into a pattern of only using specific devices and home computers when accessing accounts and services that could be compromised. So, for instance, don’t go to your online banking services from your work computer; only do so from home.
Always log out from these sites when you are done and consider using VPN services to help offer you additional protection when using your mobile devices; this will help encrypt your usage if you happen to be accessing potentially unsecured wi-fi systems.
Adopt Two-Step Verification and Don’t Overshare Information
When we sign up for new services or sites, we may be asked to provide information; when doing so, always exercise caution. If something seems off or dubious, log out and close your browser window.
Adopt services that offer two-step verification, which shields you from potential harm.
Sometimes it will be perfectly relevant for a site or service to ask for crucial info, from banking information to your home address and even social security numbers, but on other occasions, it will not be necessary. Always ask yourself if the request being made is a suitable one, given the circumstances.
Do Not Click On Unsolicited Messages and Emails
Often we are bombarded with junk mail and spam messages, and we need to be on our guard. Never click on links within unsolicited text and WhatsApp messages. Ignore, report and delete.
Similarly, when you receive an email that isn’t related to your usual stream of correspondence, leave it well alone.
If Something Is Too Good To Be True, It Almost Always Is
If you, like most of us, now do most of your shopping online, then you no doubt look to find the best deals around. That is one of the major selling points of online shopping, the ability to search out the best price and to do so with relative ease.
However, this is something of a double-edged sword. Be wary of sites and services that seem too good to be true, perhaps offering goods at prices that don’t seem plausible. Additionally, always check reviews of online outlets to get a better idea of the quality of service they offer.
This might not be a case of finding out if an online store is in some way criminally motivated but more a chance to find out if their delivery schedules are poor or if the quality of the goods they sell is up to scratch.
Here we’d strongly advise you to read reviews at comparison services of review platforms instead of individual reviews posted on random pages, which may be questionable or dubious, to say the least.
Online Threat Alerts Security Tips
Pay the safest way
Credit cards are the safest way to pay for online purchases because you can dispute the charges if you never get the goods or services or if the offer was misrepresented. Federal law limits your liability to $50 if someone makes unauthorized charges to your account, and most credit card issuers will remove them completely if you report the problem promptly.
Guard your personal information
In any transaction you conduct, make sure to check with your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if the seller, charity, company, or organization is credible. Be especially wary if the entity is unfamiliar to you. Always call the number found on a website’s contact information to make sure the number legitimately belongs to the entity you are dealing with.
Be careful of the information you share
Never give out your codes, passwords or personal information, unless you are sure of who you're dealing with
Know who you’re dealing with
Crooks pretending to be from companies you do business with may call or send an email, claiming they need to verify your personal information. Don’t provide your credit card or bank account number unless you are actually paying for something and know who you are sending payment to. Your social security number should not be necessary unless you are applying for credit. Be especially suspicious if someone claiming to be from a company with whom you have an account asks for information that the business already has.
Check your accounts
Regularly check your account transactions and report any suspicious or unauthorised transactions.
Don’t believe promises of easy money
If someone claims that you can earn money with little or no work, get a loan or credit card even if you have bad credit, or make money on an investment with little or no risk, it’s probably a scam. Oftentimes, offers that seem too good to be true, actually are too good to be true.
Do not open email from people you don’t know
If you are unsure whether an email you received is legitimate, try contacting the sender directly via other means. Do not click on any links in an email unless you are sure it is safe.
Think before you click
If an email or text message looks suspicious, don’t open any attachments or click on the links.
Verify urgent requests or unsolicited emails, messages or phone calls before you respond
If you receive a message or a phone call asking for immediate action and don't know the sender, it could be a phishing message.
Be careful with links and new website addresses
Malicious website addresses may appear almost identical to legitimate sites. Scammers often use a slight variation in spelling or logo to lure you. Malicious links can also come from friends whose email has unknowingly been compromised, so be careful.
Secure your personal information
Before providing any personal information, such as your date of birth, Social Security number, account numbers, and passwords, be sure the website is secure.
Stay informed on the latest cyber threats
Keep yourself up to date on current scams by visiting this website daily.
Use Strong Passwords
Strong passwords are critical to online security.
Keep your software up to date and maintain preventative software programs
Keep all of your software applications up to date on your computers and mobile devices. Install software that provides antivirus, firewall, and email filter services.
Update the operating systems on your electronic devices
Make sure your operating systems (OSs) and applications are up to date on all of your electronic devices. Older and unpatched versions of OSs and software are the target of many hacks. Read the CISA security tip on Understanding Patches and Software Updates for more information.
What if You Got Scammed?
Stop Contact With The Scammer
Hang up the phone. Do not reply to emails, messages, or letters that the scammer sends. Do not make any more payments to the scammer. Beware of additional scammers who may contact you claiming they can help you get your lost money back.
Secure Your Finances
- Report potentially compromised bank account, credit or debit card information to your financial institution(s) immediately. They may be able to cancel or reverse fraudulent transactions.
- Notify the three major credit bureaus. They can add a fraud alert to warn potential credit grantors that you may be a victim of identity theft. You may also want to consider placing a free security freeze on your credit report. Doing so prevents lenders and others from accessing your credit report entirely, which will prevent them from extending credit:
Check Your Computer
If your computer was accessed or otherwise affected by a scam, check to make sure that your anti-virus is up-to-date and running and that your system is free of malware and keylogging software. You may also need to seek the help of a computer repair company. Consider utilizing the Better Business Bureau’s website to find a reputable company.
Change Your Account Passwords
Update your bank, credit card, social media, and email account passwords to try to limit further unauthorized access. Make sure to choose strong passwords when changing account passwords.
Report The Scam
Reporting helps protect others. While agencies can’t always track down perpetrators of crimes against scammers, they can utilize the information gathered to record patterns of abuse which may lead to action being taken against a company or industry.
Report your issue to the following agencies based on the nature of the scam:
- Local Law Enforcement: Consumers are encouraged to report scams to their local police department or sheriff’s office, especially if you lost money or property or had your identity compromised.
- Federal Trade Commission: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.
- Identitytheft.gov: If someone is using your personal information, like your Social Security, credit card, or bank account number, to open new accounts, make purchases, or get a tax refund, report it at www.identitytheft.gov. This federal government site will also help you create your Identity Theft Report and a personal recovery plan based on your situation. Questions can be directed to 877-ID THEFT.
How To Recognize a Phishing Scam
Scammers use email or text messages to try to steal your passwords, account numbers, or Social Security numbers. If they get that information, they could get access to your email, bank, or other accounts. Or they could sell your information to other scammers. Scammers launch thousands of phishing attacks like these every day — and they’re often successful.
Scammers often update their tactics to keep up with the latest news or trends, but here are some common tactics used in phishing emails or text messages:
Phishing emails and text messages often tell a story to trick you into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. You might get an unexpected email or text message that looks like it’s from a company you know or trust, like a bank or a credit card or utility company. Or maybe it’s from an online payment website or app. The message could be from a scammer, who might
- say they’ve noticed some suspicious activity or log-in attempts — they haven’t
- claim there’s a problem with your account or your payment information — there isn’t
- say you need to confirm some personal or financial information — you don’t
- include an invoice you don’t recognize — it’s fake
- want you to click on a link to make a payment — but the link has malware
- say you’re eligible to register for a government refund — it’s a scam
- offer a coupon for free stuff — it’s not real
About Online Threat Alerts (OTA)
Online Threat Alerts or OTA is an anti-cybercrime community that started in 2012. OTA alerts the public to cyber crimes and other web threats.
By alerting the public, we have prevented a lot of online users from getting scammed or becoming victims of cybercrimes.
With the ever-increasing number of people going online, it important to have a community like OTA that continuously alerts or protects those same people from cyber-criminals, scammers and hackers, who are every day finding new ways of carrying out their malicious activities.
Online users can help by reporting suspicious or malicious messages or websites to OTA. And, if they want to determine if a message or website is a threat or scam, they can use OTA's search engine to search for the website or parts of the message for information.
Help maintain Online Threat Alerts (OTA).