Protect Yourself from Online Fraud

Yes, it’s possible: preventing fraudsters from getting you via online trickery and other stealthy actions. Yes, it’s possible to be thinking one step ahead of cyber criminals. Let’s begin with e-mails — the conduit through which so many cyber crimes like ID theft occur.

  • Imagine snail-mailing vital information like your SSN, bank account number, a duplicate of your driver’s license and your credit card number. At some point in the delivery process, someone opens the letter and see the contents. Electronic messages are not entirely private. Recognize this risk before sending knowing that in transmission there is a chance your information can be seen. Sometimes the telephone is a better option.
  • Ignore sensationalistic offers in your in-box like some ridiculously low price on the same kind of prescription drug you pay out of pocket for; it’s likely a scam.
  • Ever get an e-mail from a familiar sender, and all that’s in it is a link? Don’t click on it; it may trigger a viral attack. As for the sender, it’s a crook compromised your friends email and who figured out a way to make it look like the e-mail is from someone you know.
  • In line with the above, never open an attachment from an unfamiliar sender; otherwise you may let in a virus.
  • If someone you know sends you an unexpected attachment, e-mail or call that person for verification before opening it.
  • Enable your e-mail’s filtering software to help weed out malicious e-mails.
  • Ignore e-mails asking for “verification” of account information. Duh.

Passwords

  • Don’t put your passwords on stickies and then tape them to your computer.
  • Do a password inventory and make sure all of them contain a mix of letters, numbers and characters, even if this means you must replace all of them. They also should not include actual words or names. Bad password: 789Jeff; good password: 0$8huQP#. Resist the temptation to use a pet’s name or hobby in your password.
  • Every one of your accounts gets a different password and change them often.

General

  • Make sure your computer and smartphone are protected with antivirus/anti-malware and a firewall. And keep these updated!
  • Your Wi-Fi router has a default password; change it because cyber thieves know what they are.
  • When purchasing online, patronize only well-established merchants.
  • Try to limit online transactions to only sites that have an “https” rather than “http.” A secure site also has a padlock icon before the https.
  • Make sure you never make a typo when typing into the URL; some con artists have created phony sites that reflect typos, and once you’re on and begin entering your account information, a crook will have it in his hands.
  • Access your financial or medical accounts only on your computer, never a public one.
  • Ignore e-mails or pop-ups that ask for account or personal information.
  • When you’re done using a financial site, log out.

Robert Siciliano is an Identity Theft Expert to Hotspot Shield. He is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen See him discussing internet and wireless security on Good Morning America. Disclosures.