The increasing use of the Internet and mobile devices to shop and conduct financial transactions has made life convenient not only for the average consumer but thieves and other people engaged in criminal activities. Given the increasing use of the Internet and mobile devices for a variety of activities it is mandatory for everyone to be aware of some of the chief ways in which cyber thieves can steal your money. This will help you protect your money and identity.
The main ways by which cyber thieves steal your money involves credit card fraud and fishing for personal identification information for online back accounts. Since the thieves can be very convincing and official sounding you might be tempted to part with personal identification information without verifying the authenticity of the people who contact you.
The cyber thieves typically use three types of communication when fishing for personal identification information. These are phishing, vishing, and smishing. In each they manage to establish your trust and convince you to share vital personal identification information such as your online account number, password, and birth date.
In this system, the cyber thieves send emails that provide a convincing reason stating something along the lines of your bank having noticed suspicious account activity and asking you to click on the line to verify or change your password. This link will take you to an official looking but fake site that will capture your password and provide access to your account to the cyber thieves.
Some emails, called the Nigerian scam, claim that a high ranking official from Nigeria or a similar country requires your help to transfer funds. They are willing to share a percentage of the funds and ask for bank account details that are then misused. Some of them ask you to transfer small sums of money as well.
Vishing uses Voice over Internet Protocol to make phone calls that sound official and ask you to verify your password and other bank account details. Once obtained, this information is used to withdraw money from your account.
Similarly, smishing uses mobile devices and smses to contact you and ask for personal identification information. In such cases, even clicking on the provided link can help the cyber thief breach the security of your mobile device and access important information.
In all these fishing schemes, the cyber thieves benefit from the fact that it does not cost them much to send out thousands of emails, make recorded calls, or send text messages. Even if only a small percentage of people respond to these overtures, the thieves are able to make a lot of money.
Credit Card Fraud
Cyber thieves not only access bank accounts and help themselves to your money but can easily misuse credit cards and make online purchases and payments. They use various methods such as obtaining your name, address, and credit card number from a waiter at a restaurant or a checking clerk at a store. They then call you and claim to be verifying the card details and even say that unless you provide the information required immediately your card will be cancelled. Then they claim to verify the authenticity of the credit card by asking you for the three digit security number, expiry date of the card, and so on. This information is then used to make online purchases from your card. If you receive a call of this sort, you need to hang up immediately and contact the credit card issuer through a telephone number obtained from the directory. This will ensure that the card issuer is aware of the problem and can take steps to minimize the risk.
Another way in which cyber thieves obtain credit card or bank account information is by offering online or work-from-home jobs and asking you to make a small deposit as perhaps membership fees. When you do this, they obtain your banking or credit card information and then proceed to rob you.
While there are many variations of these basic themes to obtain personal identification information from you, you need to be alert to avoid falling prey to these scams. The first step is to always verify the identity of the person sending you an email or sms, or calling you and asking for personal identification information. For this you need to call the credit card issuer or your bank using the phone number listed in the telephone directory, not the number that appears in the email.
Another way of safeguarding yourself and your money is to go to your account site via the usual method from the bank’s main site and using that to change your password. By never clicking on a link that comes with an email or sms you will be doing a lot to protect your personal identification information.
Second, you need to be aware that the FBI, IRS, and social security or banks and credit card issuers do not ask for personal information via an email or sms. The IRS does not make assessments using information obtained via email. Similarly, the FBI will not contact you about an inheritance using email.
Third, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. The reason these scams are sometimes successful is because of some people’s get rich quick attitude which has hurt more Americans and people by far than helped. Any email, phone call, or sms claiming that you have won a prize that requires you to make a small initial deposit or fee – for postage, taxes, and so on is likely to fraudulent, especially if you never entered a contest.
While cyber-crime and cyber thieves will come up with new ways of obtaining personal identification information to steal your money from you or misuse your identity to obtain loans or open accounts, you can protect yourself by staying alert. The key to protecting your personal identification information and your finances in an online and mobile world that now increasingly includes financial transactions is to never share this information unless the site is absolutely trustworthy. Online deals, especially, unsolicited ones, can be dangerous and sometimes this can turn into something beyond financial, but personal.