Ways to Safeguard Your Finances Against Typical Cyber Scams.

5 min read

If  you have ever  had your identity stolen online or been a victim of fraud, you’ll know just how stressful and financially destructive it could be.

But  although  the consequences can be severe, both personally and financially,  ensuring  you’re protected against fraudsters online is still something that is often pushed aside to ‘do another day’.

Cyber attacks are unfortunately now commonplace and recently Twitter warned its 330 million users  to verify  their password after a bug was discovered in its IT system, which stored passwords and usernames in plain text.

Meanwhile last month the headlines were  filled with  potential threats of state-sponsored hacking attacks from Russia which led to a joint warning from the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, the FBI  and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Large-scale cyber attacks are quite rare yet we regularly hear from individuals who have fallen victim to online fraud.

Having asked some cyber security experts for top tips to avoid becoming a victim and here we’ve made a list of the best by exposing the latest tricks so you can give the crooks a hard time:

  •  Take utmost care of the information you share on social media.

Social media  are often  a treasure trove for fraudsters, especially when it  involves  finding personal details and potentially conning people out of their cash.

Therefore  it is vital  to make sure personal information,  like  your date of birth,  telephone number  or address, isn’t shared here.

Similarly if  you often  leave updates on your social media accounts when you go on holiday,  this will  be a tool for criminals and will let them know when your house will be empty.

Lisa Baergen, director at online technology firm, NuData Security, said: ‘By  watching  your photos or videos, hackers can  work out  where you live and work.

‘They can find your spouse’s name and who you socialize with – even the name of your pet  that you simply  may use as an answer to stronger security questions – even your mother’s maiden name,  a favorite  data point used by creditors and financial institutions to verify your identity.’

To protect yourself on your social media feeds, review your security settings so  you recognize  who can access the details you share.  Ensure  your security settings are on the highest possible setting and use less obvious answers for security questions – such as the name of your pet,  which can  be easily obtained from your profile.

  • Setting a password manager which will encrypt and store all of your passwords.

You’ve probably been told a thousand  times to change your password regularly and to have a different one for each account you use. However, remembering eight or nine different passwords (if not more) and changing them on  a daily  basis can be a real hassle and take a lot of time.

Instead a password manager can  do that  for you.  They’re  free to use and generate secure passwords with a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. These are then stored in an encrypted account and when logged into the password manager, your username and password  are going to be  filled in automatically when you’re asked for them.

Adam Brown, spokesperson for online technology firm Synopsys, explains: ‘Users have  many  online accounts these days and if one of those is breached,  and therefore the  password data leaked along with a linkable identifier like a username or email address, then that user’s password  is likely no longer confidential due to the common but bad practice of reusing passwords.

‘Anything linked to the user should be avoided,  together with  dictionary words and variations. Targeted attacks use reconnaissance  to realize  intelligence about the victim; social media or even public records can reveal friends and relatives names and dates etc.

  • Install up-to-date virus software.

When you connect your computer,  mobile or tablet to the internet, you’re potentially opening it up to catch  an epidemic which could steal private information from you.

To prevent this happening, install an anti-virus programme and  ensure  you regularly update it. This includes completing regular full virus scans and downloading any updates sent by the provider.

There are variety  of free anti virus programme available,  like  Windows Defender (free to those with newer versions of Windows), Avast Antivirus and Avira.

  • Patch your OS (Operating System).

‘Patching’ your  OS  simply means completing the regular updates from whatever system you’re using.

Large companies, like Apple and Microsoft, send these bent  make sure users of their systems can fully update their computers with the latest software to attack viruses and remove them.

This is especially important when it comes to cyber security as these patches will often include details to protect your computer from recent online viruses.

  • Use a VPN connection when accessing  private information online.

A free wifi network is godsent if you’ve run out of data or simply don’t want to burn through your data while using the internet.

However, it  can also  be used by hackers as a way to steal personal and financial information from people using the network.

Open wifi networks aren’t as secure as private ones, so attempt to  avoid using online banking or entering your payment or personal details when using one.

You can use a VPN(Virtual Private Network) which offers you an extra layer of protection.

VPN allows you to remotely  hook up with a private network and encrypt your internet connection and any data you send, so  nobody  can access this – including the internet service provider or a potential hacker.

There are several free VPNs available online and a number of apps you can download.

  • Check your credit score regularly for suspicious payments or applications.

Often your credit score  are often  the first place you find out you’ve been hacked, because any applications for credit will show  over here. Therefore  it is vital  to check it on a regular basis and to contact the credit reference agency if you spot anything strange.

James Jones, spokesperson for Experian, comments: ‘If you’re unlucky enough to be targeted by a fraudster,  the earlier  you discover it and raise the alarm the less time and effort will be needed to set the record straight.

  • Never open links from people  you do not  know.

If you’re contacted by someone  you do not  know, be it in an email, call , text message, via social media  or maybe in a WhatsApp message, always  countercheck  who the person or company is before clicking any links within the message or handing over any of your details.

If there are links or attachments within the message, don’t open these until you’re confident  you recognize the sender is genuine.

If you recognize the sender,  countercheck with them to make sure they intended to share the link and it’s not a virus.

Ryan Wilk,  vice chairman  at online security firm, NuData Security, says: “Most fraudsters will first attempt to  contact you with an email pretending to be from your bank or financial institution, or perhaps from a trusted merchant brand. Be very wary of any emails received from these sources”.

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