Week 1: Know who you’re dealing with

email phishing

It’s National Cybersecurity Awareness month, and we’re honoring it by offering you weekly tips on how to identify cybersecurity threats, how to avoid them and how you can improve your cybersecurity awareness so you can stay safe when browsing online. This week, we’re talking about knowing who you’re dealing with online and in the real world. First, we’ll discuss some common cybersecurity risks and how you can protect yourself from them.

Phishing Emails

You’re at work or home and you get an email from your “client” asking you to click on a link or approve a PDF of an invoice. Before you click on the link or PDF, check who the sender is. Is this a name you’ve seen before? Does this person usually send you emails asking you to complete this request? If it feels fishy, report it as a phishing email or simply delete it. Criminals will try sending you a PDF or link that contains malware via an email that seems legitimate, but really is just a setup. Some things to look for in phishing emails are misspellings of the organization it’s coming from or the name of the sender and files ending in .exe, .scr, .bat or any other unfamiliar file names. Criminals are also sending emails stating they’ve planted malware on your device and will send your private photos, videos and search history to your entire contact list unless you pay up via Bitcoin. Some will even include an old password to make their threat seem more legitimate. These claims are usually false, they are considered extortion and are completely illegal.

Phony Phone Calls

The IRS calls stating that you’ve failed to pay your taxes and if you don’t act now you could face jail time. Being threatened with jail is scary, but don’t panic. The IRS will never call demanding that you pay your taxes or else. There are very few legitimate organizations who will call your phone requesting payments. The same goes for a “relative” calling you in distress and in need of money. If they’re calling from an unidentified number and can’t answer basic questions about themselves, there is a good chance it’s a scam.

Social Media Criminals

While social media is great at connecting us to people around the globe, it has also opened the door for the wrong people to connect with you. A common scam has been “friends” of yours sending you a message on Facebook with a link stating they found an embarrassing or incriminating photo of you. Criminals will do this to scare you into clicking on the link. The link is fake and will plant malware on your device or will take over your account and start sending the same message to other to spread malware.

Wire Transfer Scams

A Nigerian Prince has been displaced from his throne, a distant relative needs cash now or your “boss” asks you to wire transfer some money immediately. All of these are common examples of wire transfer scams, but they’re not the only ones out there. They all act upon fear and try to play off your emotions, so you wire money without taking a moment to think about it. Pause and think before acting.

Now that we’ve gone over some of the common ways fraudsters try to steal your information, here are some strategies you can use to protect yourself or even avoid these situations.

Verify the Identity of the Sender or Caller

If you receive a suspicious email or phone call from a company or someone you think you know or have dealt with, take a moment to verify their identity. This can be done by reaching out to the person via an email or phone number that you have used to interact with them before. Do not contact them through any email address or phone numbers listed in the email. Either check the website of the company for a contact number or call the person from a trusted number and ask them if they meant to send you this email or call you.

Be Mindful of Who You Share Your Contact Information With

While it may be tempting to share your email address or phone number in exchange for coupons or a chance to win a prize, this could lead to your information being shared with the wrong people. Check the credibility of the website or company asking for your personal information before entering it. You may find that the company isn’t really who they say they are or they’re using your personal contact information for shady reasons.

Take a Moment to Think About Their Request

Think about what the person has asked you to do. Is it out of character for them? Or has this business asked you to do this type of thing before? If something feels off about the request, that’s probably your gut telling you something is wrong. Before clicking on any attachments or completing a transaction, think about its validity.

Do NOT Feel Pressured to Act Immediately

Most criminals will do their best to make the situation sound urgent. Usually they’ll threaten legal action, imprisonment or someone not being able to afford or receive medical care. While these situations sound scary, it is best to check on the validity of those claims before doing anything. If someone is saying a loved one is hurt, call that person or someone close to them to confirm the situation. Do not act upon the person’s request until you have verified its legitimacy.

Technology is a great tool that connects people, advances society and can solve millions of problems we wouldn’t have been able to solve fifty years ago. But as technology advances, so do the tactics of criminals trying to steal your sensitive information. By knowing who you’re dealing with, you can better protect yourself against cybersecurity threats. Each day we’re working to better protect you, our members, from common and upcoming cybersecurity threats. As we help secure your financial information, you can also help yourself. Like we tell our associates at Landmark, Stop, Look and Think before you click.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog where we discuss how you can keep your information secure online and in the world.

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