For most people, cyber crimes are what happen to other people; other people have their internet hacked or their credit card numbers stolen. But after the latest security breach at Target, cyber crimes have become much more real in the eyes of the average American. Because internet scams and viruses are so prevalent, we’re actually changing the way we communicate online – and rightfully so. Recent studies have shown that we’re putting less personal information on social media outlets, to avoid hackers and advertising. To make up for this loss, however, companies are extrapolating that same information through purchase history, and search providers are using your page views as a direct line to push other sites.
That’s why it’s so important that you take your cyber safety seriously. Protecting yourself from cyber crimes in a digital world isn’t always easy, but it’s absolutely necessary.
Common Internet Scams and Theft Techniques
By now, most of us know there is no foreign prince interested in giving us millions of dollars simply for using our bank accounts for a little while. These types of phishing scams are relatively passé, but criminal entities aren’t giving up so easy. The more common internet scams include:
- Receiving emails or calls from the IRS. These phishing scams pop up around tax time, but some thieves use them throughout the year. Since the IRS never contacts anyone unless it’s through certified mail, you can assume all phone calls and emails are fraudulent.
- Hacking e-tail and service websites. Much online identity theft can be avoided by simply checking the security of the site you’re visiting. Virus and malware protection companies will certify certain sites and warn you about others. You can also look to see if the little padlock icon pops up when you’re on a payment page.
- Using your mobile devices to access information. We use our phones and tablets for everything we can – and often rely on “hot spots” or open wireless networks to do it. Using an unsafe network makes it easier for thieves to commit cyber crimes because your tablet or phone isn’t as protected as it should be on your home network.
It’s worth noting, too, that the demographic for most internet scams is changing. As we age, our ability to spot “fishy” scenarios decreases, making an elderly online population ripe for online identity theft and scams. Encouraging older relatives and loved ones to be careful when online will make it harder for criminals to retrieve sensitive and personal information.
Avoiding Online Identity Theft
To protect yourself and your loved ones from cyber crimes, it’s important to take the proper precautions. Aside from deleting emails that are obviously internet scams, you should also:
- Buy protection software that blocks malware, viruses, phishing software and spyware, and that offers firewall protection.
- Change your passwords often, and use combinations that aren’t easy to guess.
- Keep your computer up to date when it asks.
- Use software protection in public hot spots.
- Set your social media settings to private, to keep strangers from learning about your likes and tastes.
- Report suspicious emails to the proper authorities.
If you believe that you may have been hacked or scammed, a computer forensics investigator can help you track where and when the cyber break-in took place. Here at She Spies, our computer investigator, Mike Adams can assist you with all your computer forensic needs. His expertise is often put to good use for our clients who need to put their lives back together after a cyber crime.
We live in a world where cyber crimes are a reality. But as the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.