All throughout 2018, cybersecurity has made headlines around the world. After a devastating wave of ransomware attacks, it is widely recognized that cybercrime is on the rise and has been affecting all types of companies and organizations. Yet while enterprises beef up their defenses, consumers remain in danger of being lured by online scammers, who are constantly evolving their methods. Here is how not to fall for their tricks in 2019.
Protect Your Online Financial Activities
Consumers are among the easiest targets for cyber-criminals, as awareness on best practices when it comes to staying safe online is still low – and there is a lot of money to be made. According to research, in 2017 alone, Americans suffered losses of over $900 million, with the average amount paid rising to well over $400. Among a total 2.68 million reported fraud and scam cases, 20% of respondents have stated that they had fallen victim to a scheme that had cost the money. Many perpetrators use the internet to carry out scams and fraud campaigns, for a number of reasons. First of all, the web makes it easier to target many victims at once, magnifying the potential reach of an attack. Secondly, it is much easier to fool internet users by making a situation look authentic when in fact it is not. And last but not least, ever since the digital revolution, average consumers use the internet to carry out all sorts of financial transactions.
This is why when you are considering which steps to take to protect yourself against online fraud, it is important to take a moment and identify your online activities that are more connected with your financial dealings. Hackers often target the way you store your financial and banking data, so be careful who you share that with. When you are moving large amounts of money online, it is important to make sure that the website you are using is safe and trusted. Always log on to your web banking account manually – never follow a link that is contained in an email, as it might be part of a phishing scam. If you are engaged in online trading, make sure that the provider you are using is trusted: read some independent reviews before you decide and search for complaints. Try to stick to traders that are regulated and approved by authorities like CySec. If you are shopping online, as most of us are, always choose big sites like Amazon that have cybersecurity safeguards in place. Lastly, if you are using a third-party service to compare prices for airplane tickets or accommodation fees, it is always better to then go to the official airline or hotel website and book there directly.
Be Careful Who You Trust
The name of the game in 2019 will be trust – and it is not only your laptop you have to worry about, but your smartphone, too. Our phones are the devices we turn to on a daily basis to carry out a stunning number of tasks, many of which include sharing our financial information or personal data. So, be careful who you let into your smartphone – and your life. As we have already reported, it is best to only download apps from official app stores: recently, users found out that when they downloaded a battery-saver app from a third-party app store, they were inadvertently also installing a PayPal trojan on their devices. The malware that targeted Android devices would trick users into entering their PayPal credentials on a spoofed PayPal login page – and it was later found to do the same for Viber, WhatsApp, Gmail and Google Play. Reports of malicious software disguised in third-party mobile apps that are usually given out for free has been making the rounds lately, so it is important to stick with reliable app sources.
Phishing scams are one of the biggest threats targeting consumers, and many scams are designed to make even careful users fall for them. It is crucial to never click on links contained in emails from sources you are unsure about. Even when you receive emails from providers you already use, like your bank or Netflix, always keep your eyes peeled, for the devil is in the details. Hackers are sometimes given away by a typo or a URL that is a bit off – or simply by the sender asking you to share sensitive information or even transfer money to pay for an alleged “fee” before you come into money. Recently, the FTC issued a warning against emails that were supposedly sent out by the none other than the Secretary of State, urging citizens to pay a $320 fee in order to receive $1.85 million in allegedly owed funds. These types of fake emails from government officials usually spike during certain times of the year: when it is tax season, double-check every IRS or Social Security email you receive.
There are many different variations of online scams going around – the basics, though, are always the same. Someone tries to earn your trust by promising you money, or promising to keep you from harm (like protecting you from a virus on your computer), or by disguising as a trusted source. Then, they try to lure you into sending them money. From the infamous Nigerian prince messages to a sob story email from a friend who is supposedly stranded on vacation with no money, to more elaborate scams like bogus charities or a scammer feigning interest in your ad to sell your car, internet scams take all shapes and forms – so always double-check the source before you share sensitive info or invest your hard-earned money.