With the constant evolution of the internet and the increased craftiness of hackers and scammers, more now than ever, it is important to be educated on internet safety tips to protect your personal information. Read on to learn some preventative internet safety tips and 10 ways to protect yourself and your loved one from scams.
1.Make Sure All Your Passwords Are Strong and Your Accounts Have Two-Factor Authentication
One of the biggest ways to protect yourself from hackers stealing your personal information starts with something that you have complete control over—your passwords. When choosing a password, it may be tempting to use the same password for multiple accounts so that it is easier to remember. However, using the same password puts you at a much higher risk of getting your personal information stolen, because if someone hacks into one of your accounts with this password, they will be able to access all of your accounts with this password. Make sure your password is long enough and contains a strong combination of letters and numbers. Keeping a notebook with all of your passwords for all of your accounts close to your computer is a helpful trick that ensures that you won’t forget your login information.
Another important piece of advice to utilize when creating an online account is to enable two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication makes it much more difficult for someone to hack into your account because it adds another layer of security by requiring another form of authentication. For example, if you sign correctly into your account with your username and password, the website will then send an email or a text to you with a code. You will then have to enter the code into the website that you received via email or text in order to access your account. This ensures that even if someone does get ahold of your login information, they won’t be able to get the verification code they need to access your account.
2. Never Give Out Personal Information to Random Callers
In this day and age, it is often better to avoid answering phone calls from numbers that you don’t know. However, if you do choose to answer an unexpected phone call from an unfamiliar number, it is important to be wary of scammers trying to get ahold of your personal information. Never automatically trust that someone is who they say they are or is telling the truth. Remember that phone calls that catch you off guard can easily cause you to make reckless and impulsive decisions that you normally wouldn’t, including giving a stranger your personal information. A good rule of thumb is to never give out personal information over the phone unless you are expecting a phone call from a company and you are positive that you are speaking with the company and not a scammer.
3. Don't Buy into These Common Scams
Although there are a lot of different scams out there, there are definitely some common ones that you can look out for. Click here to see a list of the latest scams to avoid.
4. Pay Attention to the Tone of Callers: Be Aware of Scare Tactics
One of the most malicious and common ways that scammers are able to quickly get a hold of people’s personal information is through scare tactics. This means that the scammers will use fear to manipulate their victims into making rash decisions. For example, a scammer may say that you owe money to the government, and if you don’t pay it off within 48 hours you will go to jail. This kind of statement can cause panic in a person, clouding their judgement. In a state of panic, even people who are aware of these scams can become overwhelmed by their emotions, making irrational, impulsive decisions that they normally would never make. Remember that if a caller is being aggressive, making threats, or pressuring you to give them your bank account information on the spot, they are most likely a scammer trying to scare you into giving them your information. Do not give in to their scare tactics, immediately hang up the phone, and report them.
5. Never Click on Random Links Sent to You
Have you ever received a suspicious looking message with a link attached? A word of advice: Never click on these crazy looking links. Clicking on these links can download a virus onto your device that allows scammers to have access to all of your personal information. Hackers can even trick you by using accounts of people you know to scam you. For example, if a hacker gains access to one of your Facebook friend’s accounts, they can then send you a message from that account with a suspicious link attached. Because it appears that a friend you trust is sending you a message, even if it looks suspicious, people will click on these weird looking links, allowing the scammer to then have access to their personal information. If you ever see a long link with random numbers and letters and a strange message whether in an email, text, or direct message on social media, save yourself the headache and don’t click it.
6. Look Carefully at All Phone Numbers and Email Addresses
As the internet has continued to evolve over the past few decades, unfortunately, so have scams. For this reason, it is vital that you pay close attention to all phone numbers and email addresses. A lot of phones now are able to detect incoming calls that are likely from scammers, but if you are not expecting a phone call or are not familiar with the number, it is best to not to answer. Another key to sorting out scammers is to look carefully at suspicious emails and email addresses. Emails from scammers will often look suspicious with lots of misspellings, weird wording, and odd links. Many scammers will attempt to impersonate a company as well. Remember that legitimate companies’ email addresses will not have misspellings in them or end with: @gmail.com. If you see any of these signs, steer clear.
7. Be Careful When Online Shopping
Online shopping is great. It’s convenient and easy to find exactly what you need. However, it is also easy to get your personal information stolen when you’re not careful. Before purchasing anything online, it is important to do research to verify whether the company is legitimate or not. If you enter your credit card information into an online shopping site that is not legitimate, a stranger now has access to your bank account. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so if you are not familiar with a company or the reviews and/or website look suspicious, it is best to shop elsewhere.
8. Verify Legitimacy with Your Bank or the Actual Company Before Taking Any Action
If you get a suspicious text, email, or call that claims to be from your bank or a company, it is important to verify that it was actually them that tried to contact you before taking any action. You can do this by calling the company directly using their official phone number. You then can make sure that it was them that tried to get in contact with you. If they say that they did not attempt to contact you and that there is nothing to update on your account, then congratulations. You’ve just avoided falling into the trap of a sleazy scammer.
9. Better Safe Than Sorry: Ask for an Opinion from Someone You Trust
If you are still unsure of whether you are being lured into a scam, it is always best to get an outsider’s opinion, particularly from an experienced internet user that you trust. Because scammers use scare tactics and emotional appeal to manipulate people into making impulsive decisions, your emotions may be blurring your perspective of the situation. An outsider is much likelier to be able to see the situation from a logical perspective and point out anything that seems suspicious to you before you make a decision.
10. How to Report Internet Scams: Make the World Safer
Whether you believe that you are a victim of fraud or you avoided falling for the tricky tactics of a scammer, you should always try to report any suspicious behavior. Reporting these scams makes the world and the internet a safer place for everyone. Click here for resources on how and where to report scams.