In our fast-paced digital world, online scams are more rampant than ever before. Cybercriminals can use online channels—including websites, email and social media—to target unsuspecting victims and access their personal or financial information.
But there's good news: You can protect yourself against these sophisticated scams and keep your online information safe and secure. It all starts with having an awareness of potential scams and practicing good online safety habits.
Here are some of the most common cybersecurity threats to look out for, and how you can prevent them from happening to you.
Phishing attacks have been around for a while, but they are becoming more and more sophisticated as technology advances. Phishing occurs when a scammer uses email to pose as a reputable source (such as a financial institution) and tricks their target into taking action. The scammer will often use social engineering tactics to lure their victim into disclosing personal or financial information or clicking a link that infects their device with a virus.
How to protect yourself
Scammers are counting on their victims to act quickly—before they realize they're being tricked. To avoid falling victim to a phishing attack, slow down and think before you click. Because it's easy for a scammer to “spoof" an email display name, double-check the actual 'sender' information. Is the email from a legitimate email address, or have some of the letters been transposed? For example, the scammer may swap out “.com" for “.co" instead. Other warning signs of a phishing email to look for include misspelled words, strange grammar and an unusual sense of urgency to respond. Don't take the bait!
Social media hacking
Many of us use social media to keep up with family and friends, but “oversharing" online could put your personal data at risk. The seemingly harmless information you share publicly, such as your birthdate, nickname, parents' names, pets' names, hometown, hobbies or what schools you attended could be used to crack your passwords. Once someone has access to your account, they gain access to even more personal information about you, including your contact information and friends' list.
Set your social media profiles to “private" and don't accept friend requests from strangers. Use strong, complex passwords and avoid using the same login for multiple accounts. Consider making a separate email address just for social media platforms. Finally, be cautious when posting photos and information online. Remember, nothing posted online can ever be completely deleted!
Phony antivirus software scams
Some scammers will use fake pop-up warnings or alerts that claim your computer is infected with hundreds of viruses. The “scareware" messages may seem threatening in nature, and demand that you act immediately to purchase and install an antivirus software. In reality, the installed software is malware, which the scammer can use to infiltrate your computer and gain access to your information.
Beware of unsolicited pop-up warnings, especially if you don't recognize the company name. Close the ad or exit your browser and don't download the software or provide your credit card information. However, don't let fake antivirus programs deter you from purchasing and using legitimate security software. Antivirus software from a reputable, well-known company will protect your computer from “scareware" attacks.
Public wi-fi scams
Public, unsecured wi-fi—like you might find in a coffee shop or airport—is convenient, but it could also put you at risk for identity theft. Connecting to an unsecured network can jeopardize your information if a hacker is able to infiltrate the network. Some scammers even create fake wi-fi hotspots that charge a fee to use the connection. The credit card information the user enters is then shared with the scammer.
When using free wi-fi at an establishment, verify with staff to be sure you're using the correct wi-fi connection. Scammers will often use generic names like “Free Public Wi-Fi" to trick users into connecting to a fake network. Avoid accessing your financial accounts, making online purchases or logging into your email when using public, unsecured wi-fi connections. If you need to use public wi-fi on a regular basis, consider using a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs encrypt traffic between your computer and the internet, adding an additional layer of protection.
Data breaches happen on almost a daily basis, impacting all types of organizations and businesses, from retailers to restaurants to online service providers. Data breaches occur when consumers' personally identifiable information, such as their account or card information, is unintentionally compromised or stolen by a cybercriminal.
Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your email, social media, and financial accounts whenever possible. MFA adds an additional layer of security when you log in to accounts, which protects you even if someone has your password. Consider using biometric authentication methods—such as a fingerprint or face recognition—to protect your accounts even further.
Protect yourself from fraud
At Wright-Patt Credit Union, we believe it's more important than ever to help our members safeguard their hard-earned money and personal information. We have the tips, tools, and resources to help you protect your accounts and information against the threat of fraud. Learn more about fraud education and awareness and find more helpful fraud prevention tips resources at WPCU.coop/StopFraud.