Steps to Take to Stay Safe Online and Avoid Digital Crime

When you hear the words “cyber crime,” what comes to mind? Do you imagine a government or large corporation’s website being hacked and accessed without authorisation? Or, do you picture someone getting caught for illegally downloading files off the internet? In truth, there is much more to cyber crimes than this.

Today, people are using the worldwide web to commit a variety of crimes that not only affect governments and large organisations, but individuals like you and me. Though they rarely make headlines, there is no denying that cyber crimes are on the rise, and you will do well to learn how to spot them and avoid becoming a victim.

 

Email Scams

The crime

If you’re an email user, you’ve most likely received unsolicited emails claiming to offer you a bargain or something for free. Usually, it is an offer for a business, an investment, money or a lottery win but request for an advance fee before the rest of the “winnings” are transferred to you. Though some of these emails may seem legitimate at first and can be extremely detailed, they are nothing but frauds. The aim is to entice the recipient into giving up their money online.

How to avoid it

No matter how enticing the offer, ignore emails from people you don’t know with propositions that seem too good to be true. Mark the email as spam and block the email address.

 

Phishing 

The crime

Phishing is a form of electronic identity theft, used to gain unlawful access to a computer, such as your work or home computer. The aim is to acquire sensitive information such as usernames, passwords and credit card details. Usually, the perpetrator masquerades as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication, such as social network sites, auction sites, banks, online payment processors or IT administrators. Phishing emails may contain links to websites that are infected with malware, malicious software which infiltrates and gains private access to computers and the sensitive information within.

How to avoid it

Guard yourself against spam and beware of links in emails that ask for personal information. Bear in mind that phishing sites often copy the look of a legitimate company to appear authentic. If you’re unsure, contact the company directly to verify if these emails are real. Also, do not click on pop-ups, download files or open attachments in emails from unknown senders. You should also protect your computer with a firewall, spam filters, anti-virus and anti-spyware software.

 

 

Cyber Bank Robbery

The crime

If you use online banking, you’re in danger of falling victim to cyber bank robbery. The perpetrators often pose as representatives of the bank, either on the phone or via email, requesting people to reveal their passwords. They then steal money from the victim’s online bank account.

How to avoid it

Be cautious of emails or phone calls asking you to divulge your personal information for any reason. If they threaten to suspend your account, say that you will go to the nearest bank branch yourself to attend to this matter. Also, when conducting online transactions, check that the URL begins with “https” to ensure you’re on a secure website. Lastly, don’t ever give personal information in an email or over the phone, unless you initiated the call.

 

 

Cyberbullying/ Harassment

The crime

Electronic bullying or harassment involves the use of the internet to annoy, abuse, threaten or harass someone. The perpetrator is usually anonymous and enjoys controlling and/or tormenting the other individual. Unfortunately, this type of bullying is on the rise among children and teenagers. Other forms of cyber harassment include identity theft, vandalism, solicitation for sex or gathering of information that may be used for extortion.

How to avoid it:

Be careful of the personal information you share online. To avoid spam and to protect your email address, create a different email account for registration on social networks. You can also use a profile photo that doesn’t identify you or your location and use an online nickname rather than your real name. When in doubt, treat your email and internet accounts like you would your identity card – with extra care.

 

Social Network Stalking

The crime

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and blogs can be a playground for stalkers. These stalkers typically use information they obtain from these sites to determine if their intended victim is out of town and then rob the victim’s home. While most cyber stalkers do so in secret, there are cyber stalkers who make their intentions known to the victim with the aim of intimidating, controlling or influencing the victim. At times, the stalking can progress from online to real-life stalking.

How to avoid it

Although you may not be able to imagine living life without social networking, be careful of what you post and share on these sites: you never know who might be watching. It’s best not to announce that you’ll be going out of town, or share information about recent purchases, especially expensive items. Also, be wary about sharing personal information about yourself on these sites – such as addresses or personal contact details. This may make you a potential target.

 

 

Online Dating Scams

The crime

While online dating is a great way to meet someone new, be wary of people preying specifically on those looking for love. Typically, in these instances, a stranger will feign romantic intentions to gain the victim’s affection and trust. They then exploit the victim’s love and goodwill to gain access to their money, bank accounts, credit cards, passports, assets etc. At times, the victim may even be duped into committing fraud on the perpetrator’s behalf.

 

How to avoid it

No matter how charming a person may seem online, don’t let your guard down and don’t allow your interest in someone to cloud your judgment. Bear in mind that online dating scammers are skilled at flattering their intended victims, so if someone seems too nice, be cautious. Dating scammers also frequently set up fake profiles and portray themselves to be successful and good looking. You can do an image search on Google to see if the photo they’ve used is legitimate.

 

 

Online Shopping Scams

The crime

Online shopping is all the rage, but due to its popularity, unscrupulous individuals have devised similar shopping schemes to steal people’s money. They do so by giving enticing offers without ever intending to deliver the goods or services promised once payment has been made.

How to avoid it

Shop only from reputable websites and online stores. Also, do your research about the seller and check out reviews from other online shoppers before sending in your payment.

Last, but not least, keep up-to-date with cyber crimes and the best methods for avoiding them. Whenever possible, invest in security features for your devices (such as anti-virus software) and as a general rule, never be too trusting of unsolicited emails and strangers.

 

 

Parental Firewall

How parents can protect their children from becoming victims of cyberbullying.

  • Establish certain rules on the use of mobile phones and computers. Also, always keep tabs on what your child is doing online.
  • Invest in and install monitoring software on your child’s devices. Inform him or her that it is your responsibility as a parent to check their interactions when you consider it appropriate.
  • “Follow” your child on social media networks to stay up-to-date on what they are doing or saying.
  • Teach your child not to engage with people when they’re being negative, angry and hurtful, nor leave comments or join threads that are spiteful.
  • Tell your children to come to you for help immediately if they are being bullied online.

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