Continued Growth in Cybercrime and Tips to Protect Against It
With continued advancements in the digital world, individuals have inevitably seen an increase in cybercrime. According to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center, financial losses due to investment schemes rose more than 300% to $10.3 billion in 2022, compared to the previous high of $3.3 billion in 2021. While there is no shortage of opportunities for cyber criminals to impact our daily lives, there are several strategies and habits you can practice to reduce potential threats to your personal information and financial assets.
Prevention: Creating a strong password can save you a lot of trouble against hackers and cyber frauds. When choosing a password, stay away from using any public information such as names or birthdates. It is always best practice to increase the complexity of a password by using a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. When available, always opt-in to use multi-factor authentication (MFA), which provides multiple factors of verification (e.g., security questions, or a one-time code texted to your cellphone, etc.) to confirm your identity before you gain access.
Beware of Phishing Scams: Phishing schemes were the #1 cybercrime type reported to the FBI in 2022. Although we can’t prevent phishing emails from entering our inbox, we can do our best to recognize them. Reputable organizations will never ask you for personal information, passwords, or sensitive information such as social security numbers through email. Many phishing attempts will convey a sense of urgency. Their goal is to manipulate and create a sense of panic that makes you rush to take action such as clicking on a malicious link without a chance to validate the sender’s information or speak to anyone first. Here are some guidelines that will help you to recognize phishing scams:
1. Always validate the sender’s email and organization. Scammers often try to impersonate large and legitimate organizations.
2. Reputable organizations will never ask for personal or sensitive information, or passwords.
3. Never click on links or open/download any attachments from unverified emails or senders.
4. Talk to someone! Don’t be shy or embarrassed to confirm an email request. Always obtain a number to call from the company’s website, not from within the message received.
Keep All Connected Devices Updated and Secure: The growing list of devices with internet connectivity in our daily lives increases the threat of unauthorized access. All devices such as smart phones, tablets, and computers require updates to ensure the software is updated with the most recent security patches to fix vulnerabilities hackers often exploit. Hackers are constantly finding new ways to gain unauthorized access through malware, spyware, and malicious programs. However, by staying diligent and keeping devices up to date, you will have the latest protection against cyber threats. You can further protect yourself by installing reputable antivirus software. Antivirus software can be configured to run in the background and automated to install/download new updates as they are rolled out.
Safeguard Personal Information: Your personal information should always be top priority. Use caution whenever you send money or personally identifiable information to people or businesses. Always verify who and where you are sending this information. A common mistake many people make is posting their personal information on social media. Although seemingly harmless, even a photo of your work desk can reveal private information such as birthdays to someone willing to take the time and effort to sniff it out. While it is tempting to grow your network on social media, be wary of accepting connection requests from people you do not know.
Stay Informed and Educated: Being informed is the most powerful safeguard against cyber threats. The more you are informed, the quicker you can recognize malicious attempts to access your personal information and assets. Discuss cybercrime trends and news with your advisors, friends, and family so there is a collective awareness within your community. Never hesitate to reach out for help when you encounter an unfamiliar situation that might raise suspicion.
Keeping your identity and assets safe can seem overwhelming in this ever-changing world of technology and internet connectivity, but adopting these practices will help you minimize potential risks. Protecting your personal information, maintaining strong passwords, updating devices, and staying well informed on scams and trends will ensure you’re not an “easy target” for cyber criminals.
To learn more about recent trends and how you can protect your identity and assets, please join us on September 12th for a webinar with Vernesa Harper, Senior Fraud Prevention Manager at Charles Schwab. If you missed the recent invitation, you can visit our website at www.westfinancial.com/events to register.
Source: Internet Crime Complaint Center https://www.ic3.gov/
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