With billions of dollars being stolen and shifted around in the hidden underground of the internet, learning to identify and reduce your chance of being scammed is essential. The Federal Bureau of Investigation warns us that the world of stealing innocent internet users’ hard-earned money will surpass the 60-billion-dollar mark by 2023. If numbers like this alarm you and cause you to clutch your credit card in fear, here’s how to stay safe on the information superhighway.
1. Identifying Phishing Attempts and Scams
The most common method of stealing your credit card number and personally-identifiable information (PII) is through malicious links placed inside emails, texts, messenger conversations and invalid URLs. Although the acronyms may seem confusing at first, scams sent through email are called “phishing” attempts, malicious links embedded inside a text message are “smishing” attempts and fraudsters calling on the phone are performing a “vishing” attack.
We know these attack vectors are hard to keep track of, so keep these rules in mind when entering your private data into a login form, email, text message or inside of a conversation with a friend:
- The government will never ask for your private data over a phone.
- The government does not call you; they send letters.
- If you feel a letter is fake, contact that branch directly.
- Technology companies will never ask for your username or password over email.
- If your caller-ID says an incoming call is from a friend, but they sound different or demand money, it’s probably a “spoof” attack.
- Virus alerts that pop up randomly are not legitimate, and you should not install their suggested anti-malware.
2. Use a Virtual Private Network
A technical way hackers get ahold of your private information is through tracking your Internet Protocol (IP) address. Similar to the street address of your home, your IP address can reveal your geographical location, service provider and the region of the city where you reside.
Moreover, attackers can use scanning tools on your IP address to find weaknesses within your system. When an attacker finds an exploit to get into your network, it’s only a matter of time before they control your computer. At that point, an attacker can record your financial transactions, online purchases and personal conversations.
By using a VPN, you create a “fake” IP address for yourself. If an attacker captures your IP through a malicious link, the temporary address generated by your VPN cannot lead them back to your personal computer.
3. Update Your System Regularly
As an extension of tip two, always keep your system updated with the most current patches and updates. When an attacker performs an NMap scan to get access to your system, they’re looking for outdated software, old operating systems and weak security protocols. By making an effort to keep your system patched and updated, you’re reducing the vectors an attacker has at their disposal.
In the same way you wouldn’t leave your car unlocked in a rough neighborhood, keeping your system unpatched is the equivalent of placing all of your valuables in the front seat of your automobile and leaving the door open all night.
4. Seek Legal Advice
If you’re the victim of internet fraud and don’t know what to do, find a reputable legal professional who understands the intricate details behind online scams. Unlike traditional lawyers, these individuals specialize in the subtle nuances that go into identity fraud over the internet.
Moreover, the lawyer will illustrate the attack vector in a way that prepares you for the future. And if your damages are extensive, your legal counsel can present the evidence to authorities to catch the hackers who committed the crime.
Although you may feel this attack was personalized, many scammers target hundreds, sometimes thousands, of online users with malicious software and links. Keep your peace of mind by finding a lawyer who understands your unique situation.