While technology certainly has its advantages, it’s also made it exponentially easier for important personal information to fall into the wrong hands. Cybercrime, referring to any type of crime that takes place primarily online, continues to rise despite technologies’ best efforts to safeguard against it. While there is unfortunately no way to guarantee your safety and well-being as you peruse the internet, there are certainly some precautionary measures you can take to lessen the chances that you will become a victim of cybercrime.
1. Purchase Security Software
As cybercrime has become more and more prominent, so has the production of quality security software geared towards preventing this type of crime. Most computers already have one version or another installed, which can be activated for a small monthly or yearly fee. Companies like Norton, Avira, and McAfee diligently scan your computer on a regular basis to keep it free of the malware, viruses, adware and spyware that could allow cybercriminals to gain access to your information, making them well worth the cost.
2. Use Strong Passwords
Since the dawn of the internet, users have been cautioned to use strong passwords that will be hard for potential hackers to figure out, but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to have done much good. According to SplashData, in 2018, the most commonly used passwords were simplistic combinations such as 123456, 111111, or even the word “password” itself. While many websites and applications have changed their password requirements to include a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, it’s not foolproof. It’s also important to not use the same password for all of your separate log-ins.
3. Follow Through with Updates
Yes, updating your computer, phones, and individual applications can be time-consuming and relatively frustrating, but there’s a good reason to do it! Within these updates are the latest defenses to protect your devices from cybercriminals, who are constantly looking for flaws in software that will enable them to gain access.
4. Consider Your Privacy Settings
When it comes to social media, you can’t be too careful! The first step in safeguarding your social media platforms from cybercriminals is by changing your settings to private (allowing only the people who you are directly connected to online to access the personal information you’ve provided). If that’s not a viable option, at least be mindful of what you post. Something as seemingly benign as posting about your pets or children could be just the hint a cybercriminal needs to guess your passwords.
5. Keep Your Credit Card Information on Lock
It’s certainly convenient to be able to complete your online purchases with the click of a button, but that doesn’t mean storing your credit card information is always a smart idea. Even on your own phone or personal computer, storing this data means it’s that much closer to falling into the wrong hands. Instead, take the time to enter your data with every purchase or, better yet, make your purchases by calling the vendors directly.
6. Follow Major Security Breaches
If you learn there’s been a security breach with any merchant with whom you do business, it’s worth doing your homework to find out what information the hackers got access to. You will immediately want to change your password with the merchant as well.
7. Monitor Your Own Credit
With free applications like Credit Karma, it’s never been easier or more accessible to keep track of your credit report. Checking it once a month will help you to monitor any changes or activity that was not initiated by you. Additionally, take the time to go through your credit card statements each month to check for any unauthorized transactions. Catching cybercrime early can be the difference between a small inconvenience and a life-changing event.
8. Know What You’re Clicking On
When it comes to the internet, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Avoid the temptation to click on every tantalizing link promising easy riches or following questionable links sent in emails from people you don’t know. More often than not, these are bait put out by cybercriminals to gain access to your information or even crash your device.
9. Report It!
Lastly, if you’ve become the unfortunate victim of cybercrime, take the necessary steps to report it to the proper authorities. Cybercrime is much harder to track, but the more information local police, the FBI, and the Federal Trade Commission have, the harder they can work to prevent similar crimes from happening again in the future. Make sure to also contact the companies, vendors, and banks where the fraudulent activity occurred, and place alerts on your credit reports through all three major credit bureaus.
While there’s no 100 percent safety guarantee pertaining to internet use, taking these simple steps will certainly help your efforts to safeguard your personal information.
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