Criminals aren’t just trying to break into your house anymore, now they are trying to break into your bank account as well.

Just like you would protect your house from a potential burglar, there are ways to protect yourself and your bank balance from cyber-crime.

What is Cyber-crime?

Cyber-crime is defined as any criminal activity that is committed by using the computer or scams on the internet. These attacks include viruses, spyware, ransomware and phishing scams.

Cyber-criminals are becoming more tech-savvy and a bigger problem than ever before. It’s difficult to monitor these criminals as they are connected to the internet via their laptops or even smartphones making it very difficult to trace them. Criminals are always looking for a quick way to make some cash. They take advantage of gullible people that might not understand how the internet works. This makes it very easy for criminals to scam them and access their personal and financial information.

Most types of cyber attacks are launched to steal your hard-earned money. The best way to defend yourself is to understand what cybercrime is and how to spot a scam. We have all been warned not to open suspicious-looking emails or give out our ID numbers or bank account details over the phone but cyber-criminals have become a lot cleverer and you could easily fall into one of their traps.

Other tips include, never download a file from an unknown source, and don’t click on links that are embedded into emails. Don’t open emails from people that you don’t know as they could contain viruses. Don’t let anyone know your passwords and make sure that they aren’t easy to guess. If you are repaying credit, buying something or owe money, always pay into the regular accounts and never pay attention to “banking details have changed” emails without calling the company and verifying this.

Threats are not only financial

The internet can be a very scary place if you are not careful but before you unplug your computer completely, know that there are ways that you can protect yourself.

The first line of defence is to use a full-service internet security package. This will protect you from most viruses and malware. If you don’t want your financial information stolen then anti-virus software is very important.

Best ways to protect yourself from fraud

  • Use strong passwords that are not easy to guess. You should have different passwords for different sites. Don’t repeat the same password and make sure that you change it regularly. The strongest passwords are at least 10 digits long and contain both numbers and letters.
  • Use a password management app to help keep track of your passwords. The app should have high security so that it can’t be hacked easily.
  • Update your software often. Once a problem or flaw in the software has been identified as a security threat, the software developer will develop a patch to help solve the problem. These patches will run in the next update. If you don’t update your software often, you will not be protected.
  • Know and manage your social media settings. We are all guilty of scrolling to the bottom of the terms and conditions page to click “I agree” without ever reading a word of what you are agreeing to. When you do this, you open up a window for cyber-criminals to attack you. Anything that you share publicly can be used to get your personal information.
  • Have a strong home network system. Use strong encryption passwords as well as a virtual private network or VPN. This will encrypt the data when it leaves your device until it is received by the intended recipient. Using public Wi-Fi is also very risky.
  • Read the news and make sure that you know about any new threats or scams that have recently been identified. It is better to be safe than sorry in this situation.
  • Protect yourself from identity theft. With so much of our personal information readily available on social media these days it is very easy to have your identity stolen. With a few of your personal details, a cyber-criminal could pretend to contact you from your bank.
  • Never give your ID number or bank account details over the phone and always type in the full address of a site. Don’t click on the links embedded in e-mails as these can lead to fake sites that look surprisingly real.
  • Shred any documents or mail that lists your personal details before you throw it away. Criminals use this information to defraud you.

Know how to spot a legitimate website

Criminals can easily set up a website that looks exactly like the original one, sometimes even mimicking large banks or even credit unions. If you know where to look you will be able to identify some crucial differences. Always check the SSL certificate. An unsecured website will start with “https”, the s at the end would mean that the website is secure. Another way to tell if a website is legitimate is to check the domain. Type the domain name into your search bar to make sure you are going to the correct website.

Google the company and make sure it’s real. Many people that have been scammed in the past will comment and warn people on message boards or complaint sites, so it’s a good idea to Google the company.

Check the physical address and telephone numbers listed on the site and make sure that they correspond with the correct company. If something seems like it is too good to be true then it probably is. Use your common sense to protect yourself online.