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Are you at risk?

Imagine This …

  • Your computer freezes and a message appears. The message says that all of your files have been encrypted. If you don’t pay a hefty ransom, you’ll never get your files, documents, and pictures back. You may not get your files back even if you do pay.
  • You learn that someone has opened a line of credit in your name. As far as the bank is concerned, you owe thousands! Someone has stolen your identity.
  • You discover that your bank account is empty. A hacker tricked you into logging into a fake site and stole your login credentials.
  • Someone has hacked into your social media account and posted offensive material, and the posts appear to have come from you.

This does not have to be you! You can enjoy learning, socializing, and shopping on the Internet safely… by learning how to recognize and avoid threats. This series of lessons will show you how!

Your information is online even if you aren’t

Your information is on the Internet even if you don’t own a computer. If you have a bank account, a loan, a credit card, a Social Security number, a frequent flyer number… the information exists on databases on the Internet already. Your travel, Internet searches, browsing history, and purchases are all valuable information collected and sold to retailers for advertising.

Detailed information is stored online about your shopping habits, travel and movements, search and surfing habits, financial information, and much more. This information creates a digital fingerprint for each of us that is a valuable marketing tool for retailers. That data can also provide a scammer invaluable information he can use to defraud or impersonate you.

Your online accounts and history

Click the tabs below to read more about the risks that these accounts pose.

Your email account is the gateway to your online life. It is perhaps the most important account to protect. Password resets nearly always include verification by email. If someone gains access to your email they can change your passwords and lock you out of your accounts.

If someone gains access to your bank accounts they can quickly empty your savings and nest egg. The FDIC does NOT insure losses that result from identity theft or fraud. Your bank and credit card company may have policies or programs to protect against these losses.

Protecting personal information, like passwords and social security numbers, is key to safeguarding against identity theft. Identity theft can take years to fix. And yet billions of records have been exposed from major database hacks through the years. Chances are good that you have already been affected by one of these breaches.

What kind of information do you share? Are the answers to your secret password reset questions easily answered with a glance at your profile? Scammers mine social media profiles for personal information and use it to make contact with potential victims.

Your cellular company knows where your phone is any time it is turned on. Location apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps track and record your movements in great detail. Location data is captured with every picture and video you take on your smartphone. Lots of other apps gather location data as well. This data is stored in online databases.

Top scams of 2019

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) received over 3.2 million reports of fraud in 2019. Victims lose billions of dollars a year.

  • Imposter scams, like phishing, ranks #1. Scammers pretending to be from the IRS or Microsoft or other businesses and government agencies bilked victims for over $667 million.
  • Social Security scams were the top imposter government-related scam.
  • Romance scams are #1 for total monetary loss. Older adults are especially at-risk for romance (catfishing) scams.
  • Fake check scams result in the biggest monetary loss per incident. This scam disproportionally affects young people because it often begins with a job offer sent to a university email account.

What do these scams have in common?

All of these scams use manipulation, which we discuss in the social engineering lesson, and electronic communication including email, text messages, and robocalls. In the past, scammers went door-to-door and used the postal service. In the digital age, scammers can target billions of potential victims for pennies using software that never sleeps.

You are at risk but far from powerless

You don’t have to become a victim. This series of lessons will help you identify and avoid risks and limit your exposure for risks that may be out of your control.

Test your knowledge

Banks, retailers, and the government all store information about you in databases on the Internet, and thousands of databases have been hacked exposing billions of personal records.

PREVIOUS – Introduction
NEXT – Social Engineering