Protecting your personal and business information online is important. Cyber fraud, digital scams, and identity theft may cause stress and even wreak havoc on your business operations if it’s not caught early on. The good news is there are a number of proactive ways to protect yourself, your business, and your financial accounts while you shop, bank and live your life online.
What’s at Risk Online
Most people don’t think anything of conducting transactions and sharing information online these days, but there are risks.
If someone gains access to your personal information and begins opening up accounts in your name, that means your identity has been stolen. This may create a headache when you try to apply for a line of credit, and realize that someone has hijacked your good name.
Fraud on your financial accounts
Even if someone doesn’t open totally new accounts in your name, there are hackers who are able to use your business banking and credit account numbers to make fraudulent purchases.
Customer data being leaked or misused
Scam artists collect personal information and share it on the dark web, where criminals may be lurking. There are also cases where people hack into devices and then ask business owners to pay a “ransom” in order to regain control.
Viruses, malware and spyware
Certain online behaviours could run the risk of letting cyber predators access your devices, potentially giving them access to your data and your webcam.
Common Scams to Watch For
Even though antivirus software and following best practices may not protect your online identity and devices 100%, the harder you make it for the cybercriminals, the less likely you are to become a victim. That starts with getting educated so you may avoid these most common scams:
If you receive a strange email that looks like it's from an online bank or vendor, be careful since it may be a fraudster trying to get you to click into a phony site and reveal account information. When in doubt, don’t click the email link. Instead, go directly to the website’s homepage or your app, or call the bank hotline to confirm that they were trying to get in touch with you.
Social media data collection
Some of the information you share in online quizzes or activity in certain apps could be exposing your information. For example, you might see a questionnaire that asks about your pet’s name or your childhood – which also happens to be answers for common password hint questions.
Fake shopping websites
Similar to the phishing scam, many scammers set up fake websites that look almost identical to popular online sellers. When shopping, make sure you type in the correct URL, and always check that it starts with “https,” which signifies a secure connection.
Fundraising and charity scams
Whenever there is a crisis or tragedy, unfortunately, online scam artists try to take advantage of people and business owners who are looking for ways to help. Try to avoid giving a donation or your payment information to any organization that you do not recognize.
How to Safeguard Your Devices and Accounts
To keep your information safe and secure, start with these strategies:
Work with reputable companies
Whether you're selecting a new point-of-sale system, adding e-commerce to your website, or placing orders with vendors, you want to be sure that all of the data going back and forth is safe and secure. Work with providers that are well-known in the industry, and have strong security measures in place.
Use secure networks
Never conduct any financial transactions on public WiFi. If you or your employees need to check something remotely or on-the-go, make sure you're on a secure network or download a VPN (virtual private network) onto your device, which provides a layer of encryption.
Create strong passwords
Unique, complex passwords on your most critical online accounts – including your email service, banks, and credit cards – are smart. On the other hand, using the same password across multiple accounts opens the door to widespread access if a hacker may crack even one. Use a password manager, which is available for free on some browsers, to automatically generate and store harder-to-crack passwords, and make sure your employees are doing the same.
Use two-factor authentication
This refers to having to input a code that’s sent via text or email when you log into an unknown device. Take the time to set this up on all of your major accounts if available as it is yet another way to deter fraudsters.
Review your statements often and set up text/email notifications for your financial transactions so you may spot and report any potential fraud right away.
Be smart offline, too
Password protect at-home or in-store devices so that people who may enter won’t have easy access to whatever information is stored on your desktop, tablet, phone or smart register. Also, keep all your hardware up to date with the latest operating system and software updates, which often include security patches against new threats.
Taking a few preemptive measures to safeguard your personal and business online activity may go a long way. The harder you make it for cybercriminals to penetrate your devices and accounts, the more likely they will move on to an easier target.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion on any issue. It should not be regarded as comprehensive or a substitute for professional advice.