Protecting Yourself from Cybercrime

Protecting Yourself from Cybercrime 2018-04-04T19:01:14+00:00

Ways to Guard Against Cybercrime Online

Recently we sent out a letter highlighting the steps to take if you lose your purse or wallet. Another threat we all face as computer users, cyber theft. We thought this would be a good time to discuss the cyber theft and the steps to take to secure your computer.

Cyber criminals don’t just send fraudulent email messages and set up fake websites. They might also call you on the telephone and claim to be from a well-known company. They might offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license.

What can Cyber Criminals do?

  • Trick you into installing malicious software that could capture sensitive data, such as online banking user names and passwords. They might also then charge you to remove this software.
  • Take control of your computer remotely and adjust settings to leave your computer vulnerable.
  • Request credit card information so they can bill you for phony services.
  • Direct you to fraudulent websites and ask you to enter credit card and other personal or financial information there.

When dealing with cybercrime, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Cybercrime in all its many forms (e.g., online identity theft, financial fraud, hacking, e-mail spoofing, information piracy and forgery, intellectual property crime, and more) can, at best, wreak havoc in victims’ lives through major inconvenience and annoyance. At worst, cybercrime can lead to financial ruin and potentially threaten a victim’s reputation and personal safety.

How Can You Stay Safe?

  • Keep your firewall turned on: A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to gain access to crash it, delete information, or even steal passwords or other sensitive information. Software firewalls are widely recommended for single computers. The software is prepackaged on some operating systems or can be purchased for individual computers. For multiple networked computers, hardware routers typically provide firewall protection.
  • Install or update your antivirus software: Antivirus software is designed to prevent malicious software programs from embedding on your computer. If it detects malicious code, like a virus or a worm, it works to disarm or remove it. Viruses can infect computers without users’ knowledge. Most types of antivirus software can be set up to update automatically.
  • Install or update your antispyware technology: Spyware is just what it sounds like—software that is surreptitiously installed on your computer to let others peer into your activities on the computer. Some spyware collects information about you without your consent or produces unwanted pop-up ads on your web browser. Some operating systems offer free spyware protection, and inexpensive software is readily available for download on the Internet or at your local computer store. Be wary of ads on the Internet offering downloadable antispyware—in some cases these products may be fake and may actually contain spyware or other malicious code. It’s like buying groceries—shop where you trust.
  • Keep your operating system up to date: Computer operating systems are periodically updated to stay in tune with technology requirements and to fix security holes. Be sure to install the updates to ensure your computer has the latest protection.
  • Be careful what you download: Carelessly downloading e-mail attachments can circumvent even the most vigilant anti-virus software. Never open an e-mail attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of forwarded attachments from people you do know. They may have unwittingly advanced malicious code.
  • Turn off your computer: With the growth of high-speed Internet connections, many opt to leave their computers on and ready for action. The downside is that being “always on” renders computers more susceptible. Beyond firewall protection, which is designed to fend off unwanted attacks, turning the computer off effectively severs an attacker’s connection—be it spyware or a botnet that employs your computer’s resources to reach out to other unwitting users.

What to do if you become a victim:Prevent Cybercrime

  1. Contact local law enforcement. Even if you have been the target of a multijurisdictional cybercrime, your local law enforcement agency (either police department or sheriff’s office) has an obligation to assist you, take a formal report, and make referrals to other agencies, when appropriate. Report your situation as soon as you find out about it. Some local agencies have detectives or departments that focus specifically on cybercrime.
  2. Notify the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, but does operate the Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide to detect patterns of wrong-doing, leading to investigations and prosecutions. File your complaint at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/FTC_Wizard.aspx?Lang=en. Victims of identity crime may receive additional help through the FTC hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4388); the FTC website at www.ftc.gov/IDTheft provides resources for victims, businesses, and law enforcement.
  1. Change passwords. Make sure you change your passwords for all online accounts. When changing your password, make it long, strong and unique, with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. You also may need to contact your bank and other financial institutions to freeze your accounts so that the offender is not able to access your financial resources.
  2. Close any unauthorized or compromised credit or charge accounts. Cancel each credit and charge card. Get new cards with new account numbers. Inform the companies that someone may be using your identity, and find out if there have been any unauthorized transactions. Close accounts so that future charges are denied. You may also want to write a letter to the company so there is a record of the problem.
  3. Think about what other personal information may be at risk. You may need to contact other agencies depending on the type of theft. For example, if a thief has access to your Social Security number, you should contact the Social Security Administration. You should also contact your state Department of Motor Vehicles if your driver’s license or car registration is stolen.
  4. Contact the three credit bureaus. If stolen money or identity is involved, contact one of the three credit bureaus to report the crime (Equifax at 1-800-525-6285, Experian at 1-888-397-3742, or TransUnion at 1-800-680-7289). Request that the credit bureau place a fraud alert on your credit report to prevent any further fraudulent activity (such as opening an account with your identification) from occurring. As soon as one of the bureaus issues a fraud alert, the other two bureaus are automatically notified.