What is a Cybercrime?
Cybercrime is a broad term that includes any criminal activity involving computers or computer networks. This can range from cyber theft targeting individuals to large-scale cyberattacks on organizations. Cybersecurity involves preventing, detecting, and responding to cybercrime.
Large Scale Effects
endanger safety by targeting critical infrastructure like hospitals, power plants, and water systems.
can affect the normal functioning of society and economy by disrupting of essential services such as communications, transportation, or education.
anxiety, fear, and depression felt when victims are part of a massive data breach.
can steal your personal information to commit fraud or other illegal activities in your name.
can drain your bank accounts, make purchases, or open new credit accounts in your name.
such as photos, videos, documents, and emails, which can be difficult or impossible to recover.
Cyber theft is a type of cybercrime and is the fastest-growing crime in the United States. Everyone with a smart phone or computer is vulnerable. Millions of everyday citizens are impacted yearly.
Cyber Theft Targets
Cybercriminals often target the following types of personal information:
personally identifiable information: full name, DOB, address, Social Security number, etc.
financial data: bank account numbers, debit card numbers, credit card numbers, and other financial data.
healthcare & insurance info: medical records, insurance policy details, and other health-related information.
usernames & passwords: login credentials for various online accounts.
work logins: includes credentials to access work-related systems and potentially sensative information.
photos & videos: even cloud servers can be hacked.
There are several ways people can be scammed online and over the phone. Here are some common methods used by scammers:
spoofing: falsify data on caller ID to disguise identity.
phishing: emails, calls, or texts asking for money or personal information.
fake online profiles & photos: to lend an air of legitimacy.
fake entities: phony businesses, charities, political action committees, etc.
fake claims: all part of the act.
fake identity: like name, credential, badge number, etc.
We can’t do much to protect ourselves from mass data breaches or attacks on infrastructure. Protection at this scale falls at the feet of government and private industry. But what we can do is protect ourselves from personal cybersecurity threats that can be extremely destructive to those who fall victim.
Password Best Practices
Complying with best password practices is a fundamental step in safeguarding one’s digital identity and assets from cyber threats and provides a robust first line of defense.
- Create strong passwords that are 12 characters or longer, using upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Change all passwords monthly.
- Use two-factor authentication.
- Think about using a password manager to store and generate secure passwords.
Mobile Phone Safety
Properly configured privacy settings on your mobile phone are crucial in protecting your personal information from being exploited. They help control what data is shared, with whom, and when, thereby reducing the risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands.
- Do not use location features.
- Keep software applications and operating systems up to date.
- If you can avoid it, do not use your cell phone to make purchases.
Computer Safety & Protection
Setting up your computer with safety and protection in mind is a crucial step in mitigating the risk of cyber threats as it helps safeguards your personal data from unauthorized access.
- Keep software and operating systems up to date.
- Use antivirus and antimalware software.
- Use a firewall. If your antivirus software doesn’t include a firewall, make sure you have your firewall ‘activated’.
- Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) that creates a more secure connection between your device and the internet.
Wi-Fi Network Protection
Securing your Wi-Fi network serves as the gateway to all your connected devices and online activities. A well-protected Wi-Fi network prevents unauthorized access and potential misuse of your internet connection.
- Use a secure Internet connection and Wi-Fi network.
- Use a strong and unique password for your Wi-fi network and change them regularly.
- When configuring your router, change the default password, and choose the Wi-Fi Protected Access 2 (WPA2) Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) setting, the strongest encryption option.
- Consider using a network security key.
- Don't use public Wi-Fi. If you must, avoid accessing sensitive info when connected.
Your personal information forms the basis of your digital identity. Ensuring its confidentiality helps to prevent potential identity theft and financial fraud.
- Limit the personal information you share on social media.
- Set you social media settings to private.
- Don’t share PINs, passwords, or any other personal information to unsolicited callers, text-messages, or emails.
- Be cautious about sharing your debit card number, credit card number, bank account number, or Social Security number.
Look For Suspicious Activity
If you are paying attention, you may see signs that something is amiss. Here are things to look for.
- You're asked to do something right away, are offered something that sounds too good to be true, are asked for your personal information.
- You see unrecognizable charges on your credit card and bank statements.
- You see new accounts or loans you didn’t open on your credit report.
- You are sent a denial of your credit or debit card.
Don’t Fall for the Scams
Many scammers are part of organized criminal networks. They are becoming increasingly sophisticated, often exploiting the latest news or trends to make their scams seem more believable.
- Scammers can create fake links to dubious websites. Be wary of unsolicited emails – don’t open attachments or click on links from unknown sources.
- Scammers may try to take advantage of financial fears by calling with work-from-home opportunities, debt consolidation offers, and student loan repayment plans.
- The government will not call, text, or contact you via social media about owing money. This is a common scam.
- a legitimate company will not call you and ask for control of your computer to fix it. This is a common scam.
If you have been a victim of a scam, report it.
Learn more about the latest scams
Stay informed about the latest online and phone scams so you don't become their next victim. There are several websites where you can learn about common online scams.
Federal Trade Commission: The FTC provides consumer alerts on the top scams of the year.
Forbes Advisor: Forbes offers advice on common online scams and how to avoid them.
Kaspersky: Kaspersky's resource center provides a list of top online scams and tips on how to avoid becoming a victim.
Heimdal Security: This site provides information on top online scams and fraud methods to be aware of.
Quick Actions to Take
- If you notice any irregular charges to your accounts in your name that you did not open, or other type of activity, call your bank and any financial institution involved immediately.
- If you find a problem, disconnect your device from the Internet and perform a full system restore.
- Consider turning off the device. Take it to a professional to scan for potential viruses and remove any that they find.
- Run a security scan on your device to make sure your system is not infected or acting more slowly or inefficiently.
- Let work, school, or other system owners know. Information Technology (IT) departments may need to warn others and upgrade systems.
Contacts to Make
Contact banks, credit card companies, and other financial services companies where you hold accounts and report that someone may be using your identity.
You may need to place holds on accounts that have been attacked or close them.
Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) if you receive messages from anyone claiming to be a government agent.
Contact the Social Security Administration (800-269- 0271) if your Social Security number was compromised.
Contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles if your driver's license or car registration has been stolen.
Reports to File
- File a report with the local police so there is an official record of the incident.
File a report with the Federal Trade Commission if you think someone is using your Social Security number illegally and/or has stolen your identity.
File a complaint with the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center. They will review the complaint and refer it to the appropriate agency.
Report online crime or fraud to your local United States Secret Service Electronic Crimes Task Force.
How to Report a Scam
Reporting scams can help authorities track down scammers and raise awareness to prevent others from becoming victims. There are several ways you can report a scam.
Federal Trade Commission: They track complaints and take legal action against companies.
USA.gov: This site provides a scam reporting tool to help you find the right government agency or consumer organization to report the scam.
- Consumer Protection: You can report scam websites to your state’s Consumer Protection office.
- Action Fraud: If you’re in the UK, you can report scams to Action Fraud, the national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime.