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April 2018

How to Identify and Avoid Digital Fraud
April 03, 2018
It can be difficult to know what’s safe online and what’s not. Sometimes, even links or files that look like they come from trusted sources and friends can contain dangerous files designed to steal information, defraud you, or harm your computer. That’s why we’ve provided this brief guide to some of the most common situations, and how you can take steps to avoid them.

Malware is intrusive or harmful software that can be used to disrupt your computer’s normal operations, collect private information, or give people unapproved access to your computer. Typically, malware is downloaded when a user clicks a link or downloads a file without verifying its source.

Spyware is a type of malware that is installed and hidden on a user’s computer without them noticing. This software is then used to monitor the person’s computer activity and gather sensitive personal information about a user, which is then used for fraudulent purposes.

Phishing is a fraudulent practice in which emails are sent that falsely claim to be from a legitimate organization or individual and ask recipients for their personal or financial information. Often, they’ll combine a request for information with some sort of threat - they’ll say that you owe money, that your account is about to close, that you (or a loved one has) have a warrant for your arrest, and then ask you for personal, private information, such as your social security number, pin numbers, passwords, or bank account information.

Phishing attacks happen with varying degrees of sophistication - some might look or sound like mass-produced requests for information, but some scammers might go so far as to find out publicly available information about you, such as your name, address, place of employment, and job title, to customize a message to you and make it look legitimate. Follow these easy tips to protect yourself from phishing scams:

1. Check Before You Click or Download
If somebody asks for personal information, make sure you know who it is. If you don’t know who it is, or it seems like a strange request from somebody you do know, call them. Don’t click any links from the email. Instead, independently verify the sender--look the company up using a search engine and call the number on their website. Clickable phone or other links from a fraudulent source could install malware on your computer.
2. Turn on Two-Factor Authentication
In the unfortunate event that your information is compromised, two-factor authentication is an important line of defense against someone using your personal information to log in to your accounts and wreak havoc on your personal and financial life. Two-factor authentication adds an extra step to any login attempt, whether it’s entering a PIN that is sent to your phone or another email address when you log in, or an app or token like CAPTCHA that requires you to input a random, dynamically-generated number in with your password.

3. Reset Your Passwords Often
As we’ve suggested before, use reminders like Daylight Savings Time, the first day of each season, or even Tax Day as a reminder to update all your passwords. If you’re serious about keeping your information secure, changing your passwords at least a couple of times a year is a good starting point.