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Cybersecurity has always been a hot topic, and 2021 is no exception. As more consumers go online for banking, shopping and other transactions during the pandemic, fraudsters are ramping up their efforts as well.
While consumer fraud targets consumers, the focus of most of these attacks is to obtain personal identity information. From business owners to the average consumer, protecting yourself against fraud, identity theft and other scams is always on the brain.
Much like all entrepreneurs out there, I am a consumer as well. Last week I received a notification that my login information for Banana Republic, L.L.Bean, Dropbox and several other accounts was found up for sale on the dark web — and I had no idea. Unfortunately, these types of problems are a norm these days. A survey by identity protection company Aura found that 87% of U.S. adults see cybercrime being a threat to their safety more so than global warming (77%) and Covid-19 (81%).
How consumers can protect themselves from fraud
Protecting yourself against fraud should be your top priority. If you aren’t quite sure where to start, consider these five technologies that fight fraud consistently.
A VPN is not just some technology for businesses to use. It is one of the most overlooked ways consumers and individuals can protect themselves against fraud.
If you’re unsure how a VPN works to combat fraud, it’s simple. Let’s say you connect to WiFi at a cafe, library, doctor’s office, airport or any public place. If you’re not using a VPN, your connection passes through a public WiFi internet service provider service, where hackers on the same network can intercept all your data. When a VPN is involved, your internet traffic is redirected through a configured remote server, hiding your IP address and encrypting your data, location, browsing history and more.
It’s also important to remember that if your IP address falls into the hands of a hacker that understands geolocation technology, they can easily track down the physical location of your company’s office or home and all of the devices connected. Most VPN software can also offer customers robocall and spam call protection for an extra level of security against fraud.
Using a VPN is becoming more popular as a surplus of organizations move towards a remote-first environment. For instance, at JustReachOut our team is 100% remote. Since we don’t have a physical office and we have teams across the US, Europe, and Asia working from public WiFis all the time, security is our number one priority. Using a VPN to mask our IP address and other secure data was one of the first security practices we put in place.
2. Password managers
You have heard this advice before: Make sure you have a secure password. Most of us just change the password once and try to make sure we remember it. We typically reuse passwords and just add a few numbers to the end of the old one to make it easier to remember them. But that doesn’t cut it anymore in this day and age of cybersecurity.
Here are some helpful password tips to follow:
Use a password manager to store your passwords
Use two-factor authentication on all accounts
Give each password a minimum of 12 characters
Include symbols, numbers and both capital and lowercase letters
Steer clear of obvious words
Avoid common substitutions
Refrain from keyword paths
Do not use your birth date, street address or any obvious pieces of information about yourself in the password
3. Identity theft protection services
Identity theft protection services scan the dark web and public records to detect your information up for sale or any high-risk and fraudulent transactions that you have made online.
Because they constantly monitor the dark web and user behavior to identify potentially fraudulent purchases, access or transactions, it’s easier to keep hackers at bay. These services are designed to constantly search for your information and notify you once they find a breach.
You can link your bank accounts, credit cards, loyalty cards and accounts, IRAs, savings account and virtually any online account and have an identity theft protection service scan for any compromised information constantly.
These tools give consumers peace of mind as they monitor for high-risk activity, determine a transaction risk score as a way to determine if something is legitimate, detect fraudulent behavior and provide alerts when suspicious activity is detected.
In our day and age having one of these services protecting your identity is a must.
4. Malware protection services
Hackers use a lot of tactics to commit fraud, and one common one is malware.
Malware is malicious software that hackers use to break into a device, gain unauthorized access to private data or complete their illicit motives. Malware encompasses a variety of malicious programs, like viruses, worms, trojans, spyware or ransomware that was designed to wreak havoc on your device.
Protecting against malware is an absolute must on your computer and smartphone, regardless of whether it’s for business or personal use. Hackers use malware to hack into your device by tricking you into opening a malicious link or installing a program from an untrusted source. These links are often disguised as a standard file or attachment in an email through a phishing scam.
Malware can do more than steal, modify, encrypt or even delete your data. It can also hijack your device’s core functionality, feed on your battery life or drain your network speed. To protect the devices that you use for business and personal use, it’s in your best interest to consider malware analysis tools.
Most VPN tools include malware protection as well, so you just need to check and make sure they do. These types of protection software are used to investigate and isolate malware as it’s detected on your computers, laptops or smartphones.
Finding software to safeguard your personal information can be the difference between falling victim to fraud and stopping it before it occurs.
5. SSL – Secure online websites and apps
There are a few simple things to watch out for when shopping or transacting online. Using a website with an HTTPS URL is one of the most overlooked security measures we all forget about.
If you are using a banking website or buying anything on the web, look for a green padlock in the URL bar to signify the webpage is secure. It should always have a secure HTTPS URL. If you are using a mobile app to bank or transact, it should be from the official banking account and never from a third party asking to connect to your bank account. Otherwise, you can be the victim of overpayment scams, check-cashing fraud, phishing, unsolicited check fraud or automatic withdrawal scams.
In addition, this may sound trivial, but we all fall for these sooner or later, knowing how to spot a URL designed by hackers is crucial, too. If you receive a phishing attempt in their email with a URL designed by hackers, the URLs will look slightly odd, and entering your credit card information is bound to lead to fraudulent charges on your card. On top of a secure URL with the proper spelling and domain, being able to combat fraud is possible by only using secure mobile apps when making purchases.
For instance, secure mobile apps prompt users to input login information and use biometric data like a fingerprint or facial recognition. Always read the description of a mobile application before downloading it from an app store.
Protection at all costs
Whether you’re a big-time CEO, small-time entrepreneur or employee, your identity is up for grabs online and it’s your job to protect it. I cannot stress enough the importance of educating yourself on the signs of fraudulent behavior. Having this knowledge can prevent and combat fraud on both a personal and professional level.