If you’ve turned on the news recently, then you’ve no doubt seen at least a couple of articles discussing the dangers of online fraud and describing horror stories in which people lost their entire identities and bank accounts overnight. These are often enough to scare some people away from using the internet altogether!
However, today that is no longer an option. As a culture, most of the western world is deeply immersed in the internet. Whether it’s for entertainment or work almost everybody is connected to the internet. Those last remaining stragglers who had yet to adapt to the digital world were forced to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic (just look at all of the grandparents who learned how to use Zoom or Skype).
The answer, therefore, no longer lies in avoiding the internet. Instead, the answer lies in keeping yourself safe through encryption protocols, advanced authentication, and good old-fashioned hard-to-guess-passwords. In today’s post, we’re going to explore the top # things that you need to protect yourself online and prevent yourself from being the victim of online fraud!
Online Fraud and Scams Are On The Rise
A recent statistic gathered by Experian shows that identity theft rose by 6% in just two years (between 2017 and 2019). These instances have only become more prevalent during the pandemic. This is due to a number of reasons.
More Online Shopping
During the pandemic, online shopping become the most prevalent form of shopping. It wasn’t just limited to retail sales, either. People started buying everything online from their groceries and furniture to toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Suddenly, all of those people who criticized online shoppers were forced to do it out of necessity’s sake.
However, many of these new online customers were completely unaccustomed to online shopping. This, in turn, meant that they were more vulnerable to getting scammed and ripped off by illegitimate sites. Not knowing what to expect, they easily fell into traps and gave their personal information up to sites operated by scammers and hackers.
Desperation For Money
One of the biggest reasons behind the increase in identity theft, hacking, and personal fraud was the sheer desperation for money during the pandemic. Hundreds of millions of people were left without a way to earn money or work. This turned many honest people into criminals just to make ends meet.
Peer-to-Peer Money Transfers
Another big trend that we’ve seen develop over the course of the last year is the popularity of peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer apps like Venmo and Cash App. These apps easily allow people, customers, and businesses to transfer money to each other without having to go through the hassle of traditional online banking apps.
While they certainly make sending and receiving money a lot easier, they also don’t have the same protections and guarantees provided by legitimate online banking services. This means that victims can easily be tricked into sending money to an unknown party and never have a chance to get their money back.
Tools To Protect Yourself Online
So, now that we’ve had a chance to examine why online fraud is on the rise, let’s take a few minutes to discuss some of the best ways to protest yourself while you’re online. Nothing is every 100% bulletproof, but if you combine several of these tools, then you’ll be well-equipped to protect your personal identity and information online.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s)
One of the simplest ways to protect yourself online is to mask your IP address. One of the ways that hackers are able to learn your personal information is that they can track your activities online. An experienced hacker can track the location of your IP address, and then use it to find your full name, your address, and other personal information that they can use to help them gain access to sensitive documents.
Virtual Private Networks (VPN’s) are a service that use advanced encryption protocols to mask your IP address and hide any sensitive data and information that could be transferred over the network. Essentially, using a VPN is like having a digital invisibility cloak. For a full breakdown of how VPN security works, check out this informative piece by TechShielder!
Two-factor authentication is standard in many of today’s financial applications. Essentially, it’s a simple security protocol that requires users to verify their identity using two factors (usually their cell phone number and email address). For example, you may log in to your online bank on your computer and then be required to enter a special one-time code that was sent via SMS to your phone. This helps to verify that you really are who you say you are.
A lot of people have tons of personal information backed up on cloud servers such as Google Drive, One Drive, or Apple iCloud. Unfortunately, many people neglect to properly secure their cloud servers with a strong password, two-factor authentication, or cloud security. Cloud security programs are like antivirus software for your computer. They help to keep your cloud data safe and secure, prevent unauthorized access, and alert you to any potential foul play.