8 tips to protect yourself
Cybercrime is an epidemic. In the United States alone, nearly half a million complaints are filed about it every year, according to the fbi– and that’s just what’s reported. Here’s how you can stay safe and avoid becoming a statistic.
Let’s start with the most obvious tip: only buy from sites that use HTTPS encryption. If the site uses HTTP, all data transferred through the connection, including payment details and passwords, is not encrypted, which means it can be read by anyone with a basic knowledge of the subject. cybercrime.
Connecting to a site that uses HTTPS ensures that all data transmitted is encrypted and that potential criminals cannot spy on your data.
Keep in mind that while an encrypted connection (HTTPS) is obviously better than HTTP, it only means that your link is secure. It does not mean that the website is secure. The website may still be full of vulnerabilities and exposed databases and may have many other weak points.
HTTPS is good, but that doesn’t mean you are completely safe.
RELATED: What is HTTPS and why should I care?
Although cybercriminals are getting more and more sophisticated, you can usually spot a scam site quite easily. Here are some of the telltale signs to look for:
- Poor site design: The first thing you’ll probably notice when you visit a site is its design. Ecommerce sites, in particular, devote a lot of resources to creating a beautiful site with great ease of use on both desktop and mobile. If a site looks like it was set up within hours, it’s probably not a good idea to trust it with your credit card details.
- Bad spelling / grammar: As with site design, reputable sites put a lot of effort and resources into site content. Typos do happen sometimes, but if there’s an obvious lack of high-quality content, there’s a good chance the site is malicious. This does not mean that sites that to do legitimate appearance cannot be malicious either, just that sites with glaring problems are obviously more risky.
- Weird business names, URLs or emails: These are usually fairly easy to spot, but some can be sneaky. If the website address (URL) looks like “best-gifts-at-super-low-prices.com”, then it is probably a scam. Also, watch out for emails or URLs that have almost imperceptible changes in their names from the actual business they claim to be. This is to differentiate between rnicrosoft, micorsoft and microsoft.
- No (or Summary) Contact details: Ecommerce sites always offer a way to get in touch. If the website does not provide a way to talk to support, it probably means that it is illegitimate and even if it does is legitimate, you don’t want to deal with a company that doesn’t provide decent support.
- Unsecured site: As mentioned above, if the “S” is missing in HTTPS on a site, do not trust it with your credit card details. Sending your information over HTTP puts them at risk.
In general, shop with who you know. And if you don’t know them, read what others are saying about them before you consider shopping with them.
If you have a credit card, it’s usually a good idea to use it in place of your debit card when shopping online.
The main reason is that when using a credit card, if your payment information is stolen via formjacking (a method of stealing your credit card information from online forms), your bank account will usually not be immediately affected. In most cases, your bank account is debited at the time of purchase when you use your debit card, while your credit card is only paid once a month. This means you have a much larger window to resolve issues before your money is gone.
Also, as the Federal Trade Commission, your liability for fraudulent charges is radically different between a credit card and a debit card.
As a good practice, check your credit card statements as often as possible. Most credit card companies have an app or allow you to sign up to receive text messages when charges have been added to your account. Take an inventory. If something is wrong, call your credit card company or bank and try to fix it. If you have any concerns, put your cards on hold. You can even cancel them and receive new ones. It’s better to be without a credit or debit card for a few weeks than to be without money you haven’t spent.
It goes without saying, but use a strong password composed of letters (upper and lower case), numbers and special characters. Not only does this make it harder for potential scammers to guess, but it also makes it extremely difficult for anyone to gain access to your account via a brute force attack.
Do you think you have nothing to fear? At the time of writing, there are 10,599,375,985 hacked accounts, according to the Have I Been Pwned Database. Of those 10.6 billion hacked accounts, at least one of those accounts used a more secure password than yours.
If you can remember your password, it is not secure enough. There is a lot of password managers to help you keep track of everything.
When you browse the Internet on a public Wi-Fi network, everyone can see what you are doing. Threat actors see this for what it is: a chance to monitor your activity and capture your personal information, such as passwords or banking information.
When using a Virtual private network (VPN), all your traffic goes through an encrypted tunnel, protecting your information from any interception. This allows you to shop safely from anywhere, even from a cafe or an airport. Keep in mind, however, that a VPN doesn’t protect you from snoopers looking over your shoulder. When you’re doing something online that requires you to enter your credit card or bank details, it’s probably a good idea to do it at home.
Phishing attacks are by no means new, but they are still prevalent in the world of cybercrime. Why? Because even the most novice threat actor can succeed.
Throughout the year, but especially during the holidays, you will be the victim of phishing attempts by e-mail, social networks and even SMS. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Do not click on this link.
If you’re not sure how to tell if a marketing message is legitimate, here are some signs to look for:
- Poorly written content: The most respectable retailers care about their content. If the content is sloppy, contains multiple typos, reads poorly, etc., be careful.
- Sender Email Address: If Walmart claims to have a special event, they won’t ask Steve to send a newsletter with his personal Gmail account. Make sure the email is a corporate email.
- Unencrypted Email: In Gmail, for example, if the padlock next to the “to” field is red and crossed out in Gmail, the email is not encrypted. This does not necessarily mean that the email is a phishing attempt, but it is best not to communicate with the sender and it is especially important not to share any sensitive information. Anything you send over an unencrypted connection will be sent in clear text for everyone to see.
Check that everything is real before going ahead. Don’t click any links in the email, and instead visit the official, legitimate website if you have any suspicions about the email or the sender. This could save you a lot of headaches, as just clicking the link can install malware on your local computer.
On any reputable e-commerce website, you will be able to find the company’s return policy. Amazon is a prime example of this and clearly details the return and refund policies for the different branches of their business. It is always wise to read about it before you make a purchase, just so you know what you are dealing with.
If you can’t easily find the company’s return policy on their website, you can try doing a search on Google (or any search engine, really). Just head to the Google search bar and type
site: plus the domain name, followed by the search query. For example, if I wanted to search for Amazon’s return policy page on Google, I would type:
site:amazon.com return policy.
If you cannot easily locate the site’s return policy, you should consider this a red flag. And if they don’t, it’s best to avoid them altogether. However, even if a site doesn’t state its return policy, that doesn’t mean you aren’t protected. In the event of fraud or misrepresentation of the product or service, you can even sue the retailer.
If your information has been stolen, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself and prevent others from becoming a victim.
If your bank details or personal information has been stolen, call your bank and let them know that your information has been compromised. They will cancel the information from the old card and issue you a new card. It can be annoying, but it’s the safest way to prevent more money from leaking out of your accounts.
If a fraudster takes out loans or new credit cards on your behalf, report the incident to the credit bureaus and ask for what is called a “”credit freeze. ” According to the FTC, this makes it more difficult for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name.
Ultimately, report the incident to the Internet Complaints Center (IC3), which is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C). If you are not based in the United States, your local government probably has a similar system for reporting cybercrime, and a quick Google search (such as “report cybercrime