Every day, wealthy families across the globe are the targets of cyber criminals, whose sole focus is to hack their email and bank accounts to steal their money. A recent analysis by Atlas VPN projects that Americans are estimated to lose more than $5 billion to Internet crime by the end of 2021 – up 32 percent from the prior year.
It’s amazing the inventive strategies that fraudsters use to try to steal your passwords, account numbers or personal information. Someone posing as a Facebook “friend” might ask a question phishing for personal information, or a stranger at a coffee shop might try to infiltrate your laptop via the local wifi.
Another scheme involves minute changes to email addresses and changing wiring instructions you sent to your bank. The email appears to be legitimate, but if you don’t look carefully and verify the change, you could be out thousands of dollars. So, contact your bank the old-fashioned way – via phone, fax or in person – and verify the changes to the wiring instructions. If your email has been compromised, you will only receive bogus responses.
Here are some other tips to reduce the risk of fraud:
- Check your checking accounts daily to ensure there are no fraudulent debits. It is always best to be proactive in case someone has hacked your banking details.
- Use only one credit card when making online purchases. That makes it easier to monitor your activity, and stop payments if necessary. An even better solution is to use a secure service like PayPal, which holds your credit card details on their secure servers, hidden behind their proprietary algorythms.
- Use complex passwords and change them regularly. Do not use names or dates that can be easily guessed, especially as many people have personal details on social media. Where possible use sentences or phrases mixed with numbers and special symbols.
- Take advantage of dual authentication tools. After you log in, you will be asked for an additional code, sometimes sent via email or text. These codes are based on an algorithm making it harder to hack or guess. This way your username and password alone, will not give hackers easy access to your account.
- Be selective of what you post online. For example, rather than telling the world that you will be leaving on vacation, wait until you return before posting the update and photos. Otherwise, you might make come home to one that has been burglarised or an account hacked, as they take advantage of your absence.
- Lock your credit. Hackers look for soft targets when it comes to stealing identities. To make this harder protect your social security number by signing up with the 3 credit agencies Transunion, Experian and Equifax. Once signed up lock your credit. This will prevent anyone from obtaining a new credit card, applying for a loan, or opening a bank account in your name. If they try you will receive a notification.
- Use a personal hotspot. When you are sitting in a public space such as a hotel lobby, Starbucks or other areas, be mindful that when you log into a local wifi hotspot, it may not be a legitimate hotspot but a hacker, tracing your every click. If you are able connect your laptop to your mobile’s internet or close the wifi on your phone and use the cellular service.
- Protect sensitive files. Before sending any private information such as financial or files including your social security number to your banker, attorney, or accountant, be sure they are password protected. Separately call them to provide the password verbally. This will prevent your data inadvertently ending up in the hands of anyone who intercepts the file.
- Keep your checking account balance low and where possible pay your bills electronically, rather than writing cheques, as they remain relatively easy to counterfeit.
- Invest in a crosscut shredder. Do not put your financial statements or other sensitive information directly in the trash, where it’s fair game for a criminal who doesn’t mind dumpster diving, to getting his hands on your account details.
- Regular backups. Ensure that you regularly back up your files to an external drive and keep copies offline and in a safe place. This will not only prepare you from a business continuity perspective, but also ensure you have access to your data, should you become the victim of a ransomware hacking attack.
Whilst there are no guarantees when it comes to security, these steps can go along way to reducing the risk of you becoming the latest victim of a cyber criminal.