December 15, 2014
Millions of us will go online in search of bargains. However, many people won’t even consider the fact that they could be the victims of cyber-crime when entering their personal information to complete online purchases. The increase in online shopping activity over the past few years makes more people a prime target for cyber-crime attacks and being aware of the danger can potentially save you from becoming a victim.
What types of cyber-crime could occur?
Educating yourself about cyber-crime is the best way to prevent it happening. There are many different ways online criminals can attack businesses and individuals. Here are the most common types of cyber-attacks:
One of the most well-known kinds of cyber-crime is the hacking of personal information. This can occur when a criminal uses a virus or Trojan to access a person’s personal computer and extract information from it. In many of the cases, the person will be unaware that their computer is being hacked and will only discover the crime when it is too late.
- Identity theft
This is a huge problem that occurs when people use the Internet to purchase goods or services. In this scenario, the criminal will access a person’s personal data such as credit card details, bank account number, address, passwords etc. via hacking and use that information to purchase goods or siphon money under the victim’s name. Many people won’t realize this has happened until it is too late and has already resulted in major financial loss.
A nasty kind of cyber-crime, blackmail is becoming more and more popular with criminals. This usually occurs when criminals gain access to personal pictures or information via hacking or chat rooms and use that information to extort money from their victims. The criminals will generally threaten the victim with public release of the sensitive information unless they comply with regular payments. What’s really important is to understand your rights.
- Fake websites
An increasingly common cyber-crime is the creation of fake websites, which mimic the appearance of trusted websites in order to gain personal information such as credit card numbers and addresses. Customers are lured to these fake websites via an e-mail link or fake ad and are asked to provide personal information for registration or a bogus offer. This will lead to the theft of such information and financial loss.
- Check-cashing schemes
Everyone loves free money and criminals use this to bait unsuspecting individuals into cashing checks that they receive from someone who approached them online, offering the victim a portion of the money from the check in exchange for cashing it. What the victim doesn’t know is that the check comes from an account that doesn’t have enough money to cover the check or that the check is a fake. Once the check is cashed the criminal disappears leaving the victim to deal with the fallout of cashing a fraudulent check, which can include criminal charges. Do not accept checks or money orders from people online who you don’t personally know. If you receive an e-mail offering these things, making a call to a law firm can really help you know if the request is legal and what the possible consequences would be for participating in that type of scheme.
How can you protect yourself against cyber-crime?
Once you are aware of the different kinds of cyber-crime, you must know how to protect yourself online. Here are some steps that can be taken to help avoid becoming the victim of cyber-crime:
- Install and update your firewall
Firewalls are an essential tool in keeping your information safe from cyber-crime. Ensure you have a reliable firewall installed on your computer and home wireless network and that the firewall’s software is constantly up-to-date.
- Be aware of where you click
When checking your e-mails, if you don’t recognize the sender or you feel in any way unsure about the origin of the e-mail don’t click on the links within the message. The same goes for links provided in chat rooms or any other online public forum. These links could potentially lead to a fake website or download a virus, Trojan, or malware on to your computer.
- Learn to recognize secure online shopping sites
Before you make a purchase online, there are ways to ensure that the website is genuine and your information safe. Firstly, look for a trust symbol on the website such as the McAfee Secure box which will let you know the site is genuine and secure. Secondly, when on the payment page, look for the lock symbol on your address bar and ensure the site begins with ‘https://’ and not ‘http://’. These security measures are present on genuine websites to let customers know their information is safe and encrypted.
- Use strong passwords
It is surprising how many people use a basic password or one that is easy to guess. Although your birthday or pet’s name is easier to remember, it is also easier for hackers to crack. Make your password at least 10 characters and include symbols, numbers, and letters. Not to mention, as overwhelming as this may seem, you should change your passwords at least every 90 days.
Although cyber-crime occurs year-round, people are especially vulnerable during the holiday season, so be more alert during that time of year. It is impossible to stop criminals from attempting to commit online crimes; however, if you keep yourself educated and use common sense, online crime isn’t uncontrollable.
Katrina Manning is part of the Content Marketing team at Grabel & Associates. Her writing and editing services have been in demand for the last six years, and she has contributed to a variety of websites and publications. She enjoys covering legal, tech, business and lifestyle.