Common cyber scams run the gamut, and range from email attachments that carry malware to fake antivirus software that does the opposite of what it promises. It also includes electronic communications that appear to be from your bank or creditor asking you to verify personal information online. The best defense is awareness of scams, malware and other cyber threats that try to harm or scam your personal identification information and financial information, and interfere with your electronic equipment operations. Also avoid clicking questionable links and pop-ups, and learn about the latest security threats from legitimate sources such as the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team.
Be aware of fake antiviruses that seem to be legitimate antivirus software programs. Don’t click on any links or pop-ups for security software. Fake antivirus programs may creep onto your computer and corrupt your installed security program. You may turn on your computer and get a security warning that doesn’t look like the notices from your installed program. When you click on it, it doesn’t allow you to do anything, and will lock you out of your files and programs. When you try to open your installed antivirus program, you won’t be able to get into it. This is a fake antivirus program with malicious malware. It will probably require some technical support to remove the offending malware and reinstall your legitimate antivirus program.
The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team recommends keeping security software updated, only purchasing and renewing software directly from vendor sites (not from links or attachments), and monitoring your credit cards for fraudulent charges.
Identity theft is commonly recognized when looking into fraudulent credit card charges, phone calls or notices about accounts or products and services that you didn’t know about or authorize, or sudden decline of a credit card. Identity theft can occur after entering purchase information on fraudulent websites.
Only complete purchase transactions on sites you have verified as legitimate. Do this by checking the order screen and looking for a valid digital certificate or a secure payment method such as PayPal on a secure web page. Avoid buying anything on sites that you arrive at through a link or a suspicious pop-up. Keep yourself aware of good online security practices with information from pages such as Lifelock Facebook page, which includes tips to turn off GPS when posting photos to social media and logging out of online accounts before leaving the office.
Immediately investigate anything that is surprising or confusing and take action if you think you are a victim of identity theft. Contact every company where you have accounts, credit reporting companies and federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration. Document everything in an organized file and consider contacting a lawyer for assistance.
Take these precautions to protect yourself from identity theft:
- Never give your personal identification information online, including social security number, bank account numbers or birth date unless you are sure you are dealing with a legitimate company.
- Do not post personal information in public forums, especially your home address and birth date.
- Pay attention to the activity on all of your financial accounts and immediately investigate anything you don’t understand.
Electronic Devices and Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity practices have moved beyond your desktop computer and are an issue for any electronic devices that access the Internet. Smart phones, tablets, video games, car navigation systems and iPods are all vulnerable to cyber threats.
Good practices to protect electronic devices include updating software, disabling remote connectivity such as Bluetooth when not in use and encrypting files when possible. The United States Computer Readiness Team recommends using good passwords, creating different passwords for different devices, and not allowing your computers and devices to remember passwords.