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Cybercriminals are using increasingly sophisticated ways to exploit technology to steal identities, personal information — and money. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), before you can protect yourself from digital threats, you must know what to look out for. These are the top three kinds of threats Americans reported to the FTC in 2018:

Identity theft. This is the illegal acquisition and use of someone else’s personal information to obtain money or credit. Signs of identity theft include bills for products or services you did not purchase, suspicious charges on your credit cards, or new accounts opened in your name that you did not authorize.

Imposter scams. These happen when you receive an email or call from a person claiming to be a government official, family member or friend requesting personal or financial information. For example, an imposter may contact you from the Social Security Administration informing you that your Social Security number has been suspended with hopes you will reveal your number or pay to have it reactivated.

Debt Collection scams. These happen when criminals attempt to collect on a fraudulent debt. Signs the “debt collector” may be a scammer are requests to be paid by wire transfers or credit cards. In 2018, there was a spike in requests for gift cards and reloadable cards.

Tips to avoid cyber theft and scams

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) when possible. MFA requires a uniquely generated security code or verification of identity, in addition to login credentials, before granting access to a network, application or website. Many financial institutions offer this added layer of security. MFA helps ensure the only person who has access to your account is you. Use it for email, banking, social media and any other service that requires logging in. If MFA is an option, enable it by using a trusted mobile device, such as your smartphone or an authenticator app.

Shake up your passwords.. According to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, you should consider using the longest password or passphrase permissible. Get creative and customize your standard password for different sites, which can prevent cyber criminals from gaining access to these accounts and protect you in the event of a breach. Use password managers to generate and remember different, complex passwords for each of your accounts. For more information, see our previous blog post, “How and why to choose a strong password.”

Keep your software updated to the latest version available. Maintain your security settings to keeping your information safe by turning on automatic updates so you don’t have to think about it, and set your security software to run regular scans.

Practice safe web surfing. When you’re online, you’re vulnerable to cyber theft. If hackers break through an encrypted firewall and/or your devices are compromised for any reason, someone could be eavesdropping on you even if you’re surfing online in your own home on an encrypted wireless network. Best practices shared by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for safe web surfing include checking for the “green lock” or padlock icon in your web browser bar, which signifies a secure connection; avoiding free Internet access with no encryption; avoiding sensitive activities, such as banking and using credit cards while using public, unsecured networks; and not revealing personally identifiable information, such as your bank account number or date of birth to unknown sources.

Resources you can use

If you learn you have been a victim of a cybercrime, these are government organizations where you can file a report immediately:

FTC.gov: The FTC’s free, one-stop resource, www.IdentityTheft.gov can help you report and recover from identity theft. Report fraud to the FTC at ftc.gov/OnGuardOnline or www.ftc.gov/complaint.

US-CERT.gov: Report computer or network vulnerabilities to US-CERT via the hotline: 1-888-282-0870 or www.us-cert.gov. Forward phishing emails or websites to US-CERT at phishing-report@us-cert.gov.

IC3.gov: If you are a victim of online crime, file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) at http://www.IC3.gov.

SSA.gov: If you believe someone is using your Social Security Number, contact the Social Security Administration’s fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

Disclaimer: The information provided is intended to increase security awareness and is not meant to be a complete discussion of cybersecurity. Cardan Capital Partners does not warrant the accuracy of any information contained in the links and neither endorses nor intends to promote the advertising of the resources listed herein. The opinions and statements contained in such resources are those of the vendors and do not necessarily represent the opinions of Cardan.

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