By Kenyon Stronski
As the Internet continues to evolve and grow, the types of scams we as a consumer can come across are numerous and seem to be lurking around every corner. I’m sure you’ve all got that phone call from a random phone number that you don’t recognize — or maybe one that you do — claiming there’s a warrant out for you and you’ll go to jail unless you pay back a certain amount of money.
There are many others, too. Someone may call you sounding like your grandchild and ask for gift cards or a wire transfer. Another may call you pretending to be some government agency or a family member asking for your social insurance number, or it may be as simple as saying that you won a lottery. Scams are numerous, but there are a few ways you can best protect yourself against the next caller or suspicious website that crosses your path.
The first, and maybe most important slice of information is to never give money, personal information or card details to anybody over the phone that you don’t personally know and trust. The information is big, as a scammer could use your personal details to gain access to your bank account through a variety of means.
If you think you may have fallen victim to this, or just want a sense of security, always check your bank statements to see if there are any transactions or moving of money that may seem suspicious to you.
While online, there are also a few simple rules of thumb to follow that can make your browsing experience safe and secure. If you’re on a website, you can check the website name and if it shows ‘https’ before the name such as https://www.youtube.com — this means your connection to the website is secure. Additionally, a lock icon will appear next to the search bar if your connection is secure. You can also change your passwords regularly and never use the same password on multiple websites. I myself use passwords that are completely different for my banking and personal sites, and I try to change them at least once every month or two.
In an email, especially if you’re checking your spam folder, you’ll never want to click on any links or download any attachments in messages unless they’re from someone you know or a website you trust. These links or attachments could lead to a virus being installed on your system or give remote access to whoever sent you the email.
If receiving a call that you’re not expecting, sometimes it’s best to not pick up the phone if it’s from a number or area code you don’t recognize. This goes the same with text messages. I have been receiving an alarming amount of scam text messages recently — and they’re best not to respond to at all.
These are just a few simple rules of thumb to keep yourself safe in our digital day and age. I believe that there will always be scammers or malicious people looking to do ill with their own knowledge of the Internet. The best thing we can do is keep our heads high and remember a few things to keep ourselves safe from the worst of it, and know how to identify when we’ve fallen victim to a scam ourselves.
In some cases, albeit rare, it is possible for your information to be released into the world by no fault of our own, but by a website you use having a data breach. Data breaches can be as simple as a hacker getting a list of everyone’s email and password — which is why it’s important to keep different passwords — or as terrible as them getting access to credit card information.
If you want to check if you have been subject to a data breach, you can enter your email or phone into https://haveibeenpwned.com/ and if you have recently, I’d recommend changing your passwords.
The Internet can be a hostile world, so remember to stay safe.