The popularity of online shopping soars during the holiday season. Not only do our computers provide access to a wide array of goods and services, but online shopping is also convenient. Even though you are shopping from the comfort of your own home, you can still be vulnerable to online crime. Thus, it’s important to stay on high alert and guard your online safety. Per the FBI, the top three crimes reported by victims in 2020 are:
1) Phishing scams – This occurs when attackers send fraudulent messages, often in the form of emails, designed to trick victims into revealing sensitive information to the attacker. Generally, these types of emails are designed to look legitimate. In some cases, people receive emails from “online retailers” for purchases and orders they did not make. These phony emails instruct people to enter their email address and password to open a locked document. Never open questionable emails, click on links, or give away your personal information for your online safety. Instead, keep close track of your online orders via the official websites using the tracking number you were given at the time of purchase rather than through email links.
2) Non-delivery/Non-payment scams – In a non-delivery scam, the buyer pays for something online but never receives the item. A non-payment scam is a reverse, where an item is shipped, but the seller is unpaid. To keep safe, only visit legitimate websites that are secure. Avoid buying from new businesses that are not well-vetted and unfamiliar companies that offer deals that are seemingly “too good to be true.” When visiting websites, be sure to properly spell the store or company name, as misspellings can take typists to a fake look-alike website designed to take advantage of buyers. Any website you are buying from should have “https” (not simply http) in its web address. Also, look for the lock icon in the browser bar of the site to verify that they use SSL encryption to reduce the risk of having your private information compromised. For the use of credit cards, it is vital that you check your statements regularly and inform the company immediately if any suspicious transactions are noted.
3) Extortion – Cyber extortion occurs online when criminals use malicious behavior, such as force, threats, intimidation against victims to gain access to money or personal information. There are different types of extortion, but most involve blackmail, such as ransomware (that prevents people from accessing their files, systems, or networks) or attempts to damage the victim’s reputation. To protect yourself from extortion, password protect your devices using strong passwords (long ones with upper and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters) that you change frequently and install the latest firewall or antivirus software. Only visit trustworthy websites and never open unknown email attachments.
Cybercrimes have evolved into a multi-million-dollar criminal industry. Furthermore, internet security is not simply a concern for individuals alone; it affects businesses and organizations as well. Per the CIS – Center for Internet Security, “Over the last year, state and local governments, along with law enforcement and healthcare organizations, have not evaded its path.” Thus, everyone is vulnerable. Understand that computer crooks are ready to strike at any time, so it’s up to us to be on guard. Regardless of the type of scam, it’s important for folks to step up and report issues related to cybercrime, not only to protect ourselves but to warn, educate, and safeguard our friends, families, communities, and more. The FBI encourages people to report internet-related crime promptly to Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3
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