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Safe Surfing: 8 Smart Tips to Help You Protect Yourself Online

The Digital Age provided us with an abundant amount of opportunities to discover new information, connect with friends and family, and complete everyday tasks. However, as with any new technology the internet also attracts wrong-doers. These wrong-doers can be labeled as hackers, scammers, and con artists. 

The presence of these con artists means that you’ll need to know how to protect yourself online. There are many ways that your personal information or devices can be tampered with online. Some of the most common crimes committed online include data breaches, stolen financial and personal information, and unauthorized use of existing accounts. 

Other scam tactics can be sent directly to your email account. Scammers can send you emails containing viruses or try to blackmail you claiming they placed ransomware on your computer. These thieves will go to great lengths to extort you, so it’s imperative that you don’t fall victim to their tactics. 

If identity theft or another online crime occurs, there are ways to seek out recourse. However, the best way to avoid these crimes is to have the knowledge and employ preventative measures. 

Read on to find out how to protect yourself online from thieves, scammers, and con artists. 

How to Protect Yourself Online from Con Artists

Internet crimes are on the rise. In 2017, these crimes amounted to a 1.4 billion dollar loss. The top three most commonly reported crimes include non-payment/non-delivery, personal data breaches, and various phishing scam tactics according to the FBI internet crime report. 

Crimes that resulted in the most financial loss include compromised email accounts, non-payment/non-delivery, and investment scams.

These scammers should never be underestimated. They use scare tactics and appeal to the emotional nature of others. Many are willing to say whatever it takes to scam you out of your money. 

However, there are ways to browse safely online and use the internet. Using the internet is a positive way to connect, and you should feel confident using it by being careful. 

Explore the following ways to protect yourself online so you can browse, email, and purchase items online safely. 

1. Two-Step Authentication

To protect your online accounts, enable two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication requires an additional verification step each time you log into an account. For example, after you provide your username and password, the website can then send you a verification code to your cellphone. 

You’ll then need to provide this code to log into your account. Other verification factors include fingerprint or answering security questions. 

This ensures that each login is, in fact, you and not a scammer. 

2. Visit Secure Websites

When possible, only visit websites that are secure. You’ll know if a website is secure if the lock icon appears next to the URL. Website URLs beginning with “https” also indicate that the website is secure. 

This is essential for any websites that request your financial or personal information. 

3. Don’t Use Public Wifi

Hackers can collect your personal information through public Wifi. Since public Wifi is less secure to allow access to all, it makes it more vulnerable to hackers. Avoid using accounts that require your personal information or are financial in nature when on public Wifi.

4. Update Your Systems

Update your computer, smartphone, and software whenever an update becomes available. These updates can fix present security issues that developers have identified as a threat.

Installing personal firewalls and security software can also improve your security. Just make sure any software you download or purchase is trustworthy and well-known. 

5. Never Give Money

Some scammers have gotten very creative with their tactics. They may attempt to threaten you and/or blackmail you in exchange for you wiring money. They may also request that you pay them in Bitcoin. 

These types of scams are prevalent via email. This makes it important to also have a spam filter active on your account. 

These scams have gotten so sophisticated, however, that the scammer may send you an email from your own account. However, this is most likely just a trick. The scammer is just making it appear that they hacked into your account to extort money from you and make their claims seem more legitimate. 

6. Be Cautious of Strangers

Always be cautious of strangers online. This includes social media, email, and chat groups. Scammers may attempt to gain your trust and then try to extort you. 

They may also attempt to sell you a product or business idea which isn’t legitimate. These scammers may be attempting to steal your personal information or profit from you. 

IRS scams are also on the rise. These scammers also use phishing and other scam tactics. Learn more about IRS phishing attacks and scams to protect yourself online. 

7. Use Complex Passwords

Use unique, complex passwords for each of your online accounts. Include lower and upper case letters, numbers, and special characters. Change your passwords regularly to ensure that your accounts remain safe. 

8. Avoid Fake Online Sweepstakes

Beware of all online sweepstakes claiming that you won a prize. Especially, when you never signed up to win a prize. These types of phishing tactics can come in the form of emails or pop-up ads. 

Never click on an unknown link and don’t provide any personal information. 

Protect Yourself Online and Feel More Confident 

Knowing how to protect yourself online will help you be more confident while surfing the web. Always stay up to date with the latest scams and seek out help when needed. 

Safely use the internet to research current scam tactics since they change on a regular basis. Know that you aren’t alone if you are victimized by a scammer. Many other people have experienced the same scam and can offer guidance and understanding. 

If your identity is stolen as a result of a credit scam, then report it to the three major credit bureaus. Then, close any accounts that you believe may have fallen prey to scammers. 

You can also request each major credit bureau to freeze your credit. This will prevent the scammer from opening any new lines of credit. Lastly, you should consider reporting the scam to the local police. 

Want to learn more about using the internet safely? Check out our blog post to learn more. 

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