The Dallas Police Department sent these excellent safety tips to our neighborhood website recently. Check them out.
The Internet has drastically changed the way that individuals interact with the world. We can go anywhere and see almost anything with a few clicks of the keyboard or a few pecks on the phone. If we don’t pay attention to what we are doing online, we can end up in uncharted waters. We can expose ourselves to several different breeds of online predators. The following email/Internet safety tips are meant to prevent you from becoming a victim of a crime.
1) AIRLINE TICKETS If you’re not flying anywhere, be on the lookout for any ticket messages from airlines, including major ones like JetBlue, Frontier Airlines, and U.S. Airways. Recently, a series of emails are going out saying that your credit card has been used to purchase a ticket contained in an attached file. If you open the file, it downloads malware that can be used to steal your personal information. Should you receive an email like this, delete it immediately.
2) DANGEROUS EMAILS – WALL STREET WOES While there haven’t been any confirmed cases yet, the creators of Certified Mail issued a warning that spammers will most likely try to use the current economic crisis for phishing (online scamming) purposes. Just as with the hurricanes, the security experts at Certified Mail believe criminals will capitalize on fear and the high profile nature of the story, so be warned. Do not send money to organizations that you have not heard of or do not know.
3) GAS SCAMS Scammers are going for what’s in the news and people’s innate desire to save some bucks by highlighting gas prices in spam emails. Either they’re offering gas cards with locked in rates around $2.50 a gallon or they’re hawking gizmos that increase your mileage. If you pay at the pump, be sure to look at the device before inserting your credit card. Scammers have been known to place “mold” credit card devices on top of real devices to steal your financial information.
4) DON’T TRUST PEOPLE YOU’VE NEVER MET IN PERSON Be mindful of exchanging emails with people you do not know. If you’re buying something from Craigslist or Offer Up, meet the other party in a public place that is well lit and occupied. Insist on paying with cash, since credit cards can easily be hacked. For eBay, check other seller’s info and ratings.
5) CREATE COMPLEX PASSWORDS We know you’ve heard it before, but creating strong, unique passwords for all your critical accounts really is the best way to keep your personal and financial information safe. This is especially true in the era of widespread corporate hacks, where one database breach can reveal tens of thousands of user passwords. If you reuse your passwords, a hacker can take the leaked data from one attack and use it to login to your other accounts.
6) BE MINDFUL OF FREE/PUBLIC WI-FI When at home or work, you probably use a password-protected router that encrypts your data. But, when you’re on the road, you might be tempted to use free, public Wi-Fi. The problem with public Wi-Fi is that it is often unsecured. This means it’s relatively easy for a hacker to access your device or information. Consider turning your wi-fi setting off and using your Internet plan or investing in a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN is a piece of software that creates a secure connection over the Internet, so you can safely connect from anywhere.
7) BE A SELECTIVE SHARER These days, there are a lot of opportunities to share our personal information online. Just be cautious about what you share, particularly when it comes to your identity information. This can potentially be used to impersonate you, or guess your passwords and logins.
8) PROTECT YOUR MOBILE LIFE Our mobile devices can be just as vulnerable to online threats as our laptops. In fact, mobile devices face new risks, such as risky apps and dangerous links sent by text message. Be careful where you click, don’t respond to messages from strangers, and only download apps from official app stores after reading other users’ reviews first. Make sure that your security software is enabled on your mobile, just like your computers and other devices.
9) PRACTICE SAFE SURFING & SHOPPING When shopping online, or visiting websites for online banking or other sensitive transactions, always make sure that the site’s address starts with “https,” instead of just “http,” and has a padlock icon in the URL field. This indicates that the website is secure and uses encryption to scramble your data so it can’t be intercepted by others. Also, be on the lookout for websites that have misspellings or bad grammar in their addresses. They could be copycats of legitimate websites.
10) CREDIT CARD FRAUD When purchasing merchandise, ensure it is from a reputable source. Do research to ensure legitimacy of the individual or company. Beware of providing credit card information through unsolicited emails. Promptly reconcile credit card statements to avoid unauthorized charges.
11) DEBT ELIMINATION Know who you are dealing with – do your research. Contact the Attorney General’s Office or the State Corporation Commission to see if there are any registered complaints. Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside your country. Ensure that you understand all terms and conditions of any agreement. Be wary of businesses that operate from P.O. boxes or mail drops.