Even the savviest internet users and the most defensive watchdogs who stay on top of their personal security can fall victim to online fraud or theft – especially if they’re not aware of the latest schemes. The recent pandemic has led to a significant increase in identify theft as people have become more active online and are therefore more susceptible to cyber scams. Eduard Goodman, Chief Privacy Officer of Sontiq, the parent company of CyberScout, shares expert insights on some of the most prevalent trends in cybersecurity today and how to take action to protect yourself, your family and your business.
Emerging Cybersecurity Trends
Be on the lookout for suspicious requests
It’s important to know the basic rules of how certain companies and organizations will contact you. For example, the only way Internal Revenue Service (IRS) contacts taxpayers is through the mail (or in-person if an official audit is taking place) – never by phone or email.
- If you receive an email, call or text from the “IRS” out of the blue asking for confidential information such as your Social Security number, it’s definitely a phishing scam, according to the IRS.
- Do not respond to any messages and report the activity right away.
How to report suspicious scams and fraud
For phone phishing scams, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and for email phishing scams, you can describe the solicitation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When benefits become unbeneficial
With the unforeseen rise in U.S. unemployment during the pandemic, The IRS reports that identity thieves are using stolen identities to fraudulently collect unemployment benefits across multiple states. Sometimes, the oblivious victims are still fruitfully employed. It’s scary to think that someone can receive benefit payments in your name via direct deposit, only for you to not find out you’ve been swindled until tax season rolls around the following year.
TIP: The organization recommends opting into the IRS Identity Protection PIN program to help prevent thieves from filing federal tax returns in your name.
Prevent your data from being held hostage
Ransomware, a type of malicious software that is designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid, is a growing problem. This hack causes significant stress to the targets, who may not always have the requested amount on-hand and are convinced they’ll never be able to recover the stolen data.
How to combat ransomware? Tips to protect your data
- Backing up your data often is a key way to make sure you don’t lose everything if you fall victim to ransomware.
- Goodman also highly recommends saving treasured files such as photos and videos from your phone to a good old-fashioned flash drive – or even getting them developed and putting them in an album or a cabinet.
- Keeping the portable storage device in a safe place will at least give you peace of mind that your precious memories won’t be gone forever if your system ever gets hacked.
Video games aren’t always innocent
With the vast improvement of video game technologies, there have been several cyberattacks on these seemingly innocent systems. According to Computer Weekly, the gaming industry suffered more than 240 million attacks in 2020, particularly during the global quarantine.
Many contemporary video games involve “in-game assets,” which are personalized add-ons that enhance the gaming experience. Examples include:
- Custom background music
- Special effects
- Level advancements
These are typically sold within the official games’ virtual shops, but some third-party sellers also offer “rarer” assets. In-game assets require an investment that can sometimes add up to hundreds of dollars. To purchase them, a credit card number must be entered into the gaming system, but if you’re not careful about from whom you download the assets, the card’s information can be stolen by the hidden seller. If you’re a parent with a child who plays video games, always be aware of what they purchase.
Players can also get booted offline by hackers, which may cause the entire household’s internet to shut down, thus interrupting all connected devices in the home. This can be easily done if a sly hacker gets a hold of the player’s IP address.
Experimential fraud gone bad
Online thieves today are now emboldened to try lots of different scams to see what sticks, according to Goodman. This “experimental fraud” can involve anything from fake products or service offers like creating fake IDs or posing as FedEx or UPS workers. In these cases, they ask for your home address to “confirm” your order will be shipped to the right location. These companies will never call, text or email you. If you’re ever contacted by a supposed big-name brand but aren’t anticipating a delivery, it’s likely fake. If you surrender your personal information over the phone or via email, thieves will then use that info to set up accounts in your name.
Be careful out there and do what you can to stay aware of the newest cyber threats. Learn more about how to stay safe against cybersecurity threats or contact your local Rural Mutual agent.
The information provided in external website links is for general informational purposes only and does not form any recommendation or warranty by Rural Mutual Insurance Company or its affiliates.