Every year, millions of people fall victim to cyber crime. In fact, according to the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2020, of 4.7 million complaints received that year, 2.2 million were fraud-related. This resulted in a $3.3 billion loss – an increase of nearly $1.5 billion from 2019.
It can be hard to detect online fraud as scammers are constantly changing their tactics and techniques. However, there are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself, which we look at in this blog.
How does online fraud occur?
Internet fraud is the process of using an online medium to steal someone’s identity or money. There are many different types of scam, including:
The bad actors use stolen credit or debit card information to make fraudulent purchases online or draw cash advances.
Online shopping scams
The consumer makes a purchase and disputes the transaction, claiming that the product they received was broken, damaged, or not as advertised, or that they did not receive it.
In other scams, the vendor is the fraudulent party and simply disappears with the money – without delivering the product or service.
In a data breach, private and confidential information, including bank details, is accessed by criminals and used nefariously. While most bad actors use advanced scamming methods to compromise personal information, it can also happen the old-fashioned way when crooks steal information by rummaging through the trash, or stealing wallets and purses.
Also known as spoofing attacks, phishing attacks trick people into giving out their credit card or personal information by making them believe they are dealing with a legitimate organization, often via scam emails. In reality, it is a con artist who steals the information and uses it for further fraudulent activity.
How to protect yourself from online fraud
There are several ways to protect yourself and your business from cyber crime.
- Keep your computers, smartphone, and software up to date with the latest security software and operating systems. Turn on automatic updates to ensure you receive the latest updates, including vulnerability patches.
- Set strong passwords. Experts recommend that passwords should be at least eight characters long using a combination of upper-case and lower-case letters along with numbers and special characters. Change your passwords frequently to reduce the risk of getting hacked.
- Watch out for phishing attacks. Often delivered by email, they attempt to trick the victim into downloading infected attachments or following links to scam sites. Avoid clicking links or opening attachments from unfamiliar sources, and report any site to the organization the scammers are impersonating.
- Don’t email signatures or account numbers. Instead, use only trusted and secure file-sharing services to send out personal and banking information. Alternatively, make a phone call to share information.
- Don’t wire money to strangers and always confirm the receiver with a phone call before making any transaction online.
- Turn on two-factor authentication. This will give your account another layer of protection (password plus a code sent to your phone, for example) from malicious attacks.
- Shop from encrypted sites only. When making purchases online, verify that the website uses secure technology. Make sure the web address begins with HTTPS instead of HTTP. Your web browser will also display a padlock icon to show that the site is encrypted. This does not guarantee that the site is safe, but it is a sign that it is more secure than others.
Online fraud can affect anyone. To date, it has cost consumers billions. This is why you must protect yourself by staying proactive and looking carefully at each website you interact with.
There is no guarantee of safety in the Internet world, and vigilance is the best protection. Follow the above steps to safeguard your online security. Good luck!
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