HOW TO PROTECT YOUR ONLINE ASSETS
WHAT IS AN ONLINE ASSET?
Online assets are anything that you may use, on the internet, that can involve money or data that belongs to you. For example, your online banking accounts, Tesco online shopping account, Paypal and even your Facebook profile and its contents.
Not all online assets need to be of monetary value. People can leave themselves open to fraud without proper protection of these various online platforms.
SO, WHERE IS A GOOD PLACE TO START?
P@55w0rd5! – passwords are the most integral part of protecting your online assets. The more obscure, the better.
• Campaigns against internet fraud recommend that you use a password that includes various symbols; for example ‘,.!”£$ – they also recommend that you use numbers too – a good way to incorporate numbers is to swap a letter in a word for a number, for example, if your password is ‘redballoon’ you might want to change this and add in numbers so that it reads ‘redba1l0on’. To make this password even stronger you may wish to add in a symbol as discussed above, even a capital letter can make all the difference if someone or something is trying to ‘hack’ into your accounts: ‘Redb@1l0on!’
• The more obscure a password is, the harder it will be for a person, or computer that is attempting to gain access to your online assets
• Should I have different passwords? Although it may be frustrating having to remember different passwords for different online services and programs, if you use ONE password for all of them, think how easy it would be for a hacker or Fraudster to take over ALL of your online assets! It is strongly recommended that different passwords are used and that these are changed at least every 3-6 months if possible.
• ‘Would you like Microsoft to save your Password data?’ – This might seem like a good idea, that way you wouldn’t have to remember the many variants of Passwords you have!… But what if your phone or laptop was stolen? This would allow for your online assets to be easily taken over by a Fraudster.
HOW MIGHT SOMEONE OR SOMETHING ATTEMPT TO HACK INTO MY ONLINE ASSETS?
There are many ways these days by which hackers will attempt to gain access to your online assets.
TELEPHONE – ‘I’m calling regarding your account – could you please start by telling me you PIN number for Data Protection Reasons?’
• NO! Never give your PIN number to anyone. Your bank would never ask you for this and if you ever receive a call like this, end the call immediately and inform your bank. Many banks have a Fraud helpline that you can call if you think your account(s) are at risk.
• Automated telephone messages – some fraudsters can trick you into thinking that the call you are receiving is reputable by using an automated messaging service that may ask you to input personal information via the telephone keypad. IF IN DOUBT, end the call and call the official customer service line of the company that the Fraudster was posing as. (it tends to be luck of the draw with these types of message. You may receive one ‘from HSBC’ when you know that you only bank with NatWest. In these cases, end the call immediately, if there is a number shown, make a note of it and report it to the bank in question.
EMAIL – ‘Someone has tried to log in to your Apple ID account/ Hotmail Account, please click this link to be redirected to our helpdesk’
• Email fraudsters are getting wiser and are finding other ways to trick people. The email may appear to be from ‘Apple Support’ or ‘Microsoft Helpdesk’ – but if you take a closer look at the actual email address of the sender, it will become obvious that this is not from a reputable source or the official company that the Fraudster is claiming to be. – THINK!! Before you act – it may be a scary thing to be told that your online assets are at risk, but before panicking, always check and ensure you properly read the email to verify whether it is from a reputable source or not.
• Most online service providers and companies have dedicated phishing email addresses that you can forward any suspicious emails to.
• ‘Luck out 4 speeling mistakes’ – Sometimes spam and fraudulent emails are easy to point out because the standard of English used in them may not be up to scratch as one might expect from a reputable company so always be on the look out for spelling errors and poor use of the English language.
YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT – Fraudsters may attempt to contact you via Facebook. This could be by way of an advert which may appear to support a charity or cause, fraudsters may even attempt to message you and send links which can infiltrate your computer or device and leave your online assets open to threat.
DIDN’T YOUR MOTHER EVER TELL YOU?… Don’t air your dirty laundry out in public!!… Many people leave themselves open to online fraud by letting too many people know too much personal information. You may not even realise that you are doing it. Facebook encourages its users to let their friends know their birthday, the town they live, even their full address! Just imagine the damage that could be done with your name, date of birth and address!
See our tips below for help keeping your online presence safe:-
• DO NOT include your address anywhere on your profile.
• It is preferable to not include the year that you were born/ or even your birthday at all.
• If you can, try not to use your full name. You may wish to use a variant of your name and leave out the surname, Fraudsters are unlikely to know you personally, so if they don’t know your full name, you won’t be so easily targeted. E.G just your first name and middle name ‘John William’ instead of ‘John William Jones’
• Keep sharing your location to an absolute minimum.
• To prevent fraudsters sending you messages you can limit who can communicate with you. This is a fairly simple exercise and can be adjusted on your account settings.
THE SMALLER THE AMOUNT OF INFORMATION THAT YOU HAVE ABOUT YOURSELF ONLINE, THE LESS LIKELY SOMEONE OR SOMETHING IS TO TRY AND STEAL YOUR IDENTITY/ PUT YOUR ONLINE ASSETS AT RISK!
The world of internet fraud is advancing day by day, Fraudsters are finding new ways to hack into our online assets all the time. To keep abreast of issues, always follow the advice of the company/ companies that hold your assets. If it is suggested that your password isn’t strong enough, make it stronger using symbols and numbers and capital letters.
The media are keeping as up to date as possible with internet fraud and there are always new news articles and television programs that discuss this advancing area of fraud.
Remember, think before you act and always double check if you are unsure! Stay safe online.