As the way we conduct business and organize our personal lives becomes more virtual, it is important to remember to use discretion when doing business, shopping, or sharing information online. In Wisconsin, October has been declared as Cyber Security Awareness Month. The Wisconsin Homeland Security Council reports that last year in 2012, Wisconsinites lost $6.2 million due to cyber rip-offs and scams, with the average loss of $1,700 per victim.
Some frequent cyber scams involve fraudulent online auto sales, online dating sites or social media networks where individuals give the false pretense of a relationship to gain trust and then ask for money, and online real estate fraud such as rental, timeshare, or loan modification scams. Other scams involve intimidation or extortion in which someone may send an email falsely claiming the recipient has committed a crime or has a parking violation and owes money. Additionally, beware of phishing and spoofing, which involves someone sending an email and falsely claiming to be a real business to try to get personal information, such as passwords, bank account numbers, or credit card numbers from the recipient.
Here are a few tips from ReadyWisconsin to help keep you safe while using your computer or mobile device online:
- Keep a Clean Machine: Keep your security software current by turning on automatic updates.
- Protect Your Personal Information: Do not use the same password for your email, social media, and bank accounts.
- When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Links in emails, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often used by cybercriminals to compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, it is better to delete or not open the link.
- Think Before You Act: Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offer something that sounds too good to be true, or ask for personal information.
- Get Savvy about Wi‐Fi Hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit access. Criminals may be able to access personal information when you use free Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or hotel.