Seven Important Tips for Avoiding Online Scams

The Internet and widespread availability of technology brings many benefits to daily life, but it also carries risks. New forms of online crime have emerged in the past decade, and organised gangs are targeting individuals and businesses for financial gains. The police are working hard to reduce levels of cyber crime, but it’s important to understand the threats and take action to protect yourself.

Most cyber criminals look for soft targets. Basic mistakes such as not using secure passwords can open the door to attacks. The ultimate aim of most cyber crimes is extortion, but they come in many forms. Malware, keyloggers and phishing emails are just some of the tools used to scam victims.

The following tips will help to prevent you becoming the victim of an online scam.

1) Protect your computers.

Accessing the Internet without antivirus and malware software is asking for trouble. Free and trial versions of security software are worth looking at if your computer or laptop don’t have protections installed but are not advanced enough to provide you with full cover from scammers. Running a scan once a week is a good habit to help prevent hackers installing malicious code. Running regular software updates is another easy way of increasing security protection.

2) Use secure passwords.

Email accounts, online shopping sites and any services used for financial transactions online must have strong password protection. Passwords should be at least nine characters long and contain a mixture of numbers, symbols and other characters. Using your name or something like ‘Password1’ leaves the door open to hackers and cyber criminals.

3) Beware suspicious emails.

Malicious code is often hidden within attachments sent with emails. If you aren’t sure of the identity of the sender of an email, don’t open attachments without running a security scan. One click of the mouse can infect your device with a virus or piece of malware. Phishing scams use emails to scam victims into revealing financial and other sensitive data.

4) Protect your mobile devices.

Smartphones and tablets are just as vulnerable to attack as laptops and other computers. Apple devices need to be fully updated. Microsoft and Android devices nee antivirus installed alongside updates to reduce the risk of hacking. Mobile devices should also be secured with strong passwords in case they fall into the wrong hands.

5) Take care with social media.

Think carefully about what you share on Facebook and other social media. Revealing confidential information can lead to identity theft and other scams. Criminals can build up a detailed picture of you if you reveal your location, place of work and birthdate on social media. Privacy settings are an easy way of restricting what strangers can read about you.

6) Secure your wi-fi.

Wi-fi routers are one the most common ways cyber criminals access computers for malicious purposes. Routers should be secured with passwords and the highest level of encryption available. If hackers breach your wi-fi network they could access files and confidential information stored on your network.

7) Use common sense at all times.

Just as in the real world, if something sounds too good to be true online, it probably is. Pop ups and emails saying you have won prizes or are entitled to claim cash rewards should be ignored. Supplying bank or other financial information to unknown parties on the Internet is very dangerous.

The Internet can’t be avoided in today’s connected world, but you should act with caution at all times when online. Complacency can cost dearly. Failing to take basic security measures leaves you exposed to fraud, scams and extortion.

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