While you need to be like Neo, the main character from “The Matrix” to make sure your identity and possessions are safe online.
But an incident of identity fraud occurs every three seconds, according to a 2013 Javelin Strategy & Research report.
With things happening that fast and frequently, one needs to be vigilant and educated when it comes to internet usage.
“We’ve transitioned from the ‘stealing of information and selling it’ age, to just getting the end user to get us to write us a check,” said Michael Glazier, president and CEO at LaptopEMT in Valencia, referring to everything from piracy to social engineering. “And unfortunately, there’s not much a consumer can do to really protect themselves but to be educated.”
There are a number of ways consumers can protect themselves in this new age, according to Glazier, and that’s by first knowing the facts and that “everything” can be accessed through your devices by the right scammer and/or hacker.
“I just read an article from Credit Karma that said identity theft is up 71% in the last 10 years,” said Glazier. “And the reason that is is because we’re really forthcoming with everything now, especially with our social security numbers. It seems like we’re giving that out like candy, and you don’t know who the person is on the other end.”
There are multiple types of scams people need to be aware of in order to best protect themselves and avoid becoming another statistic, Glazier said.
“The first one right now that people need to be aware of is the phone scams, which is people calling you and saying, ‘Hey you have a virus on your computer; let us correct it for you some outrageous fee.’ And that’s just a cold call,” said Glazier. “And the other one is extensions that do the same thing. Its when it pops up like, “Hey you have a virus on your computer and you should call this number.’”
Also, gift cards are a major weapon used by scammers, and were they might have once been big ticket items for online purchases, companies such as Apple do not even offer a $25 gift any longer due to how they’ve been manipulated into a tool for con artists, Glazier added.
However, much like the scammers and hackers seem to have always had the tools, consumers and internet users now have the education to fight back, and the more educated more people have become, the more tools that have become accessible.
“I recommend a program called AVAST antivirus program,” said Glazier, adding that the program is both free and “open-sourced,” meaning that hundreds of people have contributed to it from around the world on the internet, and because of that, it has been thoroughly vetted by those who are trying to contribute to their fellow online users safety. “The cool thing is that because it’s a collectiveness of all these people, they can’t sell it for a profit. And because of the amount of people doing it, it’s the best antivirus program out there.”
Beyond getting a program, there are also a couple best practices people should be following, according to Glazier.
“Don’t click on an email that has an attachment that you don’t know who its from, anything that says you have a virus that just comes up that you have no input to is fake and Microsoft is not going to call you to tell you you have a virus,” he said
“Just everytime think: ‘Could this be a scam? How are they making money off of this?’” Glazier added. “They’re telling you your computer has a virus and all your information is going all over the internet and they’re going to tell you they’re going to help you with that, even though they’re the scam.”
Beyond the advice laid out by Glazier when it comes to learning about the smart ways to surf the web and checking emails, other Santa Clarita experts expanded a little bit more on Glazier’s advice to remain vigilant online.
“When it comes to social media, to keep yourself safe, don’t accept (a friend request or “add” from) anyone you don’t know,” said Guillermo Ojeda, a technician at UBREAK IFIX, a software/hardware repair shop in Valencia. “That limits a lot of the phishing you could be open to. And make sure you know exactly what you’re putting up there, and make sure it doesn’t include personal information.”
When asked what he tells his grandma about how she can stay protected online, he said scrutinizing your social media posts is key, but there are two others things he would advise her to do, as well.
“People that she doesn’t know, giving out personal information, and to avoid accessing sites that are foreign to her,” said Ojeda. “For instance, if she wants to watch a movie, she should stay away from the sites she doesn’t know. There’s a lot of phishing and backdoor programs on those sites that you don’t want on your computer.”
TIPS FOR STAYING SAFE
Limit sharing on social media
Always keep your privacy settings at the highest level, and never share sensitive personal information such as your birth date, address or social security number.
Create strong passwords
Choose complex passwords that feature a combination of letters, numbers and symbols
Avoid sharing personal information when using unsecured networks, such as those available at restaurants or coffee shops.
Exercise email caution
Don’t open emails with attachments unless you know the sender
Protect the personal
Be mindful of trash that has bank account info, or any other personal info on it