The world has gone digital, so have your assets and much of your personal information. Cybercriminals are aware of this shift but are also mindful of how ill-prepared many people are when protecting themselves in the online world. While cybersecurity might seem complex, a little bit of common sense will go a long way in minimizing the threats that could expose you.
Beware before you share
Limit the amount of personal information you share online, including birthdays, addresses, account numbers and passwords, and your Social Security number. If a government agency contacts you asking for your government-issued ID, verify the request by contacting the agency. Scammers like to pose as the IRS and other agencies in hopes of convincing their targets to share valuable personal data. If you encounter one of these scams, you should terminate Contact immediately and report it to the proper authorities.
Shop smart, shop safely
These days, nearly all of America shops online. Sadly, many unscrupulous websites out there fail to handle your data with the level of care it deserves. This leaves your data vulnerable to hackers that use these sites to steal credit card information in hopes of making a quick buck. It’s essential to shop at reputable online stores only. Look for badges of Trust and read independent reviews so you can gain a sense of a website’s credibility.
Anti-virus software and firewalls provide an added layer of defense and should remain on at all times. Sensitive information stored on a device should be encrypted and backed up if it is compromised by malware. When choosing passwords, make sure that they are complex and unique to every account. It would help if you also made sure all devices sharing a network with yours use anti-virus software.
Stay safe while using public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is available in most stores and restaurants, but connecting to these networks could be risky. If you must connect to public Wi-Fi, use a virtual private network, and avoid viewing sensitive information or making bank transactions.
Know the signs of a scam
It is important to stay in the know about trending scams. There are, however, red flags that are common to a wide range of scams.
- An attempt to gain trust by impersonating a government agency or familiar contact
- Contact from out of the blue claiming a problem or prize
- Scammers use emotional appeal in an attempt to create urgency; they may pressure you with jail time or other penalties
- Unusual requests regarding the method of payment, you might be asked to use a money transfer company or purchase pre-loaded gift cards so you can provide them with the number on the back
Be wary of familiar contacts requesting personal information. A popular scamming tactic is to gain access to the account of someone you may know or trust. The scammer will then message you to get personal information or money from you.
Lawrence Castillo is a member of Syndicated Columnists, a national organization committed to a fully transparent approach to money management.