Some indicators of fraud
Be on the lookout for signs that your identity and accounts may have been compromised and you need to take action. They include:
- New accounts or credit cards you didn’t apply for
- Debits on your account you can’t explain
- Inaccurate information on your credit reports – request a free annual copy of your credit report at annualcreditreport.com
- Missing bills or other mail, indicating your account information may have been stolen
- Receiving calls or letters from debt collectors for things you didn’t buy
- Never use your Social Security number, phone number, birth date, or family members' names as a username or password
- Change your password frequently, using a combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters when allowed
- Never use the same password on multiple sites
- Don’t write down or share your password with anyone
Public Wi-Fi is a major convenience that helps users avoid data overages on mobile devices and allows users to go online in countless locations. However, public Wi-Fi hotspots are not safe locations to perform sensitive tasks, like Online Banking or online shopping.
Most public Wi-Fi networks are open networks, meaning they don't employ any form of wireless encryption. Anybody can join the network at any time, as long as they are within range of the access point. Because the network is unencrypted, data sent between your computer and the access point can be exploited by cybercriminals. This includes everything from emails to passwords to credit card numbers. Another risk of public Wi-Fi is the spread of malware.
How to stay safe on public Wi-Fi
- Never use public Wi-Fi to access or transmit sensitive information
- Make sure you are connecting to the right network! Most establishments post the name of their Wi-Fi network and connection information in an easy-to-spot location
- Turn off file sharing in System Preferences (MacOS) or the Control Panel (Windows) to reduce the chance of a criminal accessing your shared files or attempting to plant malware on your computer – Windows will automatically disable file sharing on wireless networks you classify as public
- Even if you had to enter a password to access the network, don't assume the network is secure. You have no way of knowing if the owner has taken proper security precautions, or if someone else on the network is attempting to intercept network traffic.
- If you need to access sensitive information on the go, use a mobile device's mobile data connection (turn off the Wi-Fi first) – and make sure you only download mobile apps from official sources, such as Apple's App Store® and Google Play™
A computer virus is a program designed to replicate within a computer system, either corrupting or destroying the system or the data it contains. Malware is a blanket term for several types of malicious programs, including ransomware, spyware, Trojans and viruses.
Do I still need anti-virus?
The short answer to this question is: Yes! Viruses, while considered a "legacy threat," are still a risk to computer users, especially those who operate older computers which no longer receive security updates from their manufacturers.
While computer viruses have decreased in prevalence over the past decade, the risk of other malware has increased considerably. Destruction and corruption of data is not the only aim of cybercriminals and malicious hackers.
What kind of anti-virus tool should I use?
If your computer operates Windows 7 or later (Windows 8, 8.1, 10, or 11), Microsoft has bundled a free anti-virus tool (Microsoft Security Essentials for Windows 7, Windows Defender for 8-11). Beyond this free tool, there are several paid anti-virus suites which have scored well in testing.
The best anti-virus suites will:
- Offer the ability to schedule regular scans
- Automatically upgrade their virus recognition files
- Provide some form of malware scanning
- Provide additional services like vulnerability scanning, anti-exploit protection, and firewall services
But I have a Mac. I thought Macs don't get viruses?
Computer viruses were initially written with the intent of causing the maximum amount of damage. For this reason, the majority of early viruses were written to attack a Windows-based infrastructure, since Windows computers significantly outnumbered Macs. Unfortunately, this spawned a myth that Macs don't get viruses.
While the design of MacOS includes safeguards to prevent viruses from taking hold, there are documented cases of cybercriminals exploiting flaws to sneak viruses past Apple's security measures. For this reason, it is recommended that users install anti-virus tools in some form (there are decent free options for MacOS) and definitely anti-malware.
While most major anti-virus suites include some form of malware scanning, a dedicated anti-malware tool is just as important as anti-virus. The best anti-malware tool will offer real-time and scheduled scanning, automatic updates, and additional tools like website scanning and automatic threat removal.
Malware has the potential to attack both Windows and MacOS hardware. In the case of MacOS, malware will attempt to exploit a vulnerability in an installed program, bypassing the security measures in Apple's design. For this reason, it is recommended that, just like anti-virus, Mac users employ some form of anti-malware on their systems.
Use these tips to protect your computer:
Anti-virus and anti-malware are not the only tools to protect your computer from threats. Beyond installing these programs, and keeping them updated, you should:
- If you use a wireless network at home, make sure it is secured with a strong password using up-to-date encryption (WPA2 or newer). Unsecured wireless networks could allow an attacker to access your network, putting your other devices at risk
- Stop using outdated operating systems that no longer receive updated security patches
- Never grant remote access to "tech support" firms you don’t have an account with. If you have security questions or require assistance, contact your anti-virus/anti-malware provider directly
- Practice safe web browsing and email habits by being on the lookout for potential phishing emails that can contain malware
- Use strong, unique passwords for each website and a password manager or password vault, which can generate truly random passwords and store them in an encrypted state
Here's what to consider when using your phone or tablet.
- Carry a portable charger or battery pack to avoid the possibility of malware infection from compromised public charging stations or public computers
- Use a phone lock function to protect your app and browser-based accounts
- Delete text message alerts that you set up on your financial accounts after you receive them
- Never text personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, etc.
- Change your mobile number if you lose or replace your mobile device or service
- Always log off of apps when you are finished using them
- Never store personal information on your mobile device
- Upgrade to the latest mobile operating system to be sure you have the latest security protection in place
- Only download apps from reputable sources, such as the store built into your device
These are some tell-tale signs a criminal is attempting to engage in email fraud against you:
- Requests for specific personal information
- Urgency – often threatening to close your account
- Money reward offers in exchange for personal information through a survey or other method
- Typos and poor grammar