The last twelve months have been notable for many things: one of them, sadly, has been the rapid increase in cybercrime as criminals look to prey on the lonely and vulnerable.
To take one very simple example, the BBC reported last month that romance fraud – cheating someone out of money by pretending to want a relationship – had risen 20% in 2020 compared to 2019.
All of us though, are increasingly banking online – whether on our computers or on our smartphones. And the ‘scams’ are getting increasingly sophisticated and believable: the good old days when a general in an African army offered to deposit $30m in your bank account are long gone…
How can we protect ourselves? With online fraud now a recognised career path in many parts of the world, what simple steps can we take to make sure our data stays safe online?
Here are five simple tips from industry experts to help you do just that:
1. Do your online banking at home. You should never trust the wi-fi in places like airports or cafés. As one industry expert put it, there are certain things you should only do at home: wearing pyjamas, flossing your teeth and online banking.
2. Use a password management tool. The name of your pet followed by 99 is not an adequate password. RT5@%hj58F4G!*fd4R may not be the most memorable password in the world, but it is going to cause a hacker a few more problems than Benjy99. With all of us now using multiple passwords, it makes sense to use a password management tool to keep things secure.
3. Always protect your devices. There are six simple steps you can take to protect your devices. First, install antivirus software and keep it updated. Make sure your firewall is turned on. Keep your operating software up to date. Be careful about what you download and the sites you visit. Clear your cache and your browsing history and, finally, turn off your device when you’re not using it.
4. Keep your digital footprint to a minimum. It is becoming increasingly difficult but individuals and companies should try to keep exposure of their personal and financial data to a minimum. One expert recommends entering credit card details only once and activating two-factor authentication for all your online transactions and accounts.
Banks and financial institutions are doing their best to help – and yes, we all lose patience with their seemingly endless checks sometimes. But in the final analysis, it is up to us to protect our online data. Hopefully the four points above will help you do that.
The last one? It’s simple. Common sense, constant attention – and remembering that if something looks too good to be true then it almost certainly is too good to be true. Which brings us full circle to the African general and his thirty million dollars…