Nowadays, practically everyone uses the Internet. Whether it be for business, gaming, or connecting with loved ones, a significant portion of our lives are now spent online. However, as wonderful as the internet may be, there are risks associated with it too. Criminals and con artists have developed creative tactics for stealing personal data and defrauding people of their money and belongings. Because information is so easily accessible online, scammers are able to commit their cybercrimes while remaining largely anonymous. For this reason, it is important to know how you can protect your personal information online and avoid becoming the victim of online fraud. To save you some time, here are 5 tips from the private investigators at Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc. on how you can do just that!
To begin with, it is imperative that you shop only on secure websites. With online shopping gaining in popularity, it comes as no surprise that criminals have already developed a way of using this trend to obtain your personal information. These criminals have created fake sites that appear authentic, but are really just a ruse to obtain credit card information and other personal data. Though many of these sites exist online, many of them are easy to spot. For instance, a shopping site that has no company address or phone number is suspicious and is likely to be a fake site. Another telltale sign is if the returns page or privacy policies are unclear or difficult to find. This often indicates that the website is fake and you should exit immediately for your own safety. Therefore, ensuring that the site you are shopping on is safe and secure is crucial when it comes to avoiding online fraud.
Secondly, be careful when connecting to public Wi-Fi. Most often than not, people see a sign hanging out of a shop saying “Free Public Wi-Fi” and connect to it without a second thought. Although public Wi-Fi sounds inviting, it could be a trap! For instance, criminals can set up their own public Wi-Fi near public Wi-Fi hotspots and use similar network names. Something as small as connecting to “Starbucks Guests” versus “Starbucks Guest” could lead to online fraud! If you end up connecting to a criminal’s Wi-Fi, they will have access to every information you send after connecting, including sensitive personal information. To prevent being in such a position, verify with an employee to ensure you are connected to the right network. Even then, the information you send is still at risk! There are software like WireShark that can intercept an unsecure network, such as public Wi-Fi networks. What’s more shocking is that WireShark is free! Using software such as these allows criminals to intercept the data you send, including banking information, emails, usernames, and passwords! While this does not imply that you should never use a public Wi-Fi, you should exercise caution while using one and be aware of the data that you transfer.
Thirdly, don’t share personal information on social media. In today’s society, social media has become an integral part of our lives, and it is all too simple to reveal personal information if you are not cautious. This does not imply that you should keep your account private, but you should be aware of who’s following you. Keep in mind that anybody, even criminals, can masquerade on social media. If you’re not cautious, these criminals can learn practically everything about you and exploit it to pose as a friend or a romantic interest. Then, by using deception, they can get you to send them money to deal with some fictitious problem they have. For instance, they could masquerade as a romantic interest and say they need money to fly to you. To avoid having to deal with all of this, check your followers list to remove any suspicious followers. In addition to that, it is important to avoid posting anything that gives away sensitive personal information, such as your address and birthdate. All in all, keep your sensitive information off of social media.
Fourthly, watch out for phishing emails. These emails are made by fraudsters impersonating well-known or reliable businesses like banks or streaming services. They then fabricate a tale to coerce you into sending sensitive data, such as social security numbers or account numbers. For instance, they might claim that there is an issue with your account or payment information and then provide a link to where you are prompted to enter sensitive banking information. When this is the case, don’t click the link right away! Call the company and verify whether the email was sent by them. Unfortunately, these criminals will continue to update their methods of phishing and thus, it is important to exercise caution and verify an email by calling the company or through other appropriate means.
Lastly, install protection software. With criminals coming up with new ways to get a hold of your personal information, it is now more important than ever to install protection software on your device or network. With an anti-spam software installed, you can worry less about being deceived by phishing emails as the software prevents them from showing up in your inbox! Keep in mind, though, that technology isn’t flawless, and phishing emails may still wind up in your inbox if they aren’t detected. For this reason, you should continue to verify such emails and keep your protection software up-to-date to ensure that you can receive as much protection from online fraud as possible.
In conclusion, being a victim of online fraud isn’t something you want to happen and by implementing these 5 tips, your chances of ever becoming one will be significantly reduced. If you ever find yourself having fallen for one of these scams, you can contact the corporate fraud investigators at Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc. to help. Remember that everyone is vulnerable to online fraud, but knowing how you can protect your personal data is the first step on how we can reduce online fraud and bring about a much safer and trustworthy internet experience.