How You Are Making Yourself A Target For Cybercriminals

online security tips

In today’s interconnected and always-online world, we are all more vulnerable than ever. Everyone, without exception, is a potential victim of scammers and cybercriminals.

While there are a number of ways you can maximise your personal security and minimise the chances that you get caught up in a scam, more often than not, people tend to leave themselves rather open to getting targeted. Here are several ways that you are making yourself a target.

Not updating your security software regularly

In Malaysia, scams are a lot more common than you think. Since our everyday life revolves around computers and mobile devices, it is imperative that you keep your security software up to date. Cyber criminals and scammers are always on the lookout for potential victims with vulnerabilities in their devices.

A hacker can easily exploit your old software’s security failings to take over your computer and steal your data. This is particularly dangerous if the hacker or scammer in question intends to commit identity theft.

Using the same password for every account

Most people might think that using the same password for everything is convenient. However, it poses a serious security risk. Don’t make your password for your streaming subscriptions are the same as the password to your bank account or EPF. You are simply making things easier for scammers and hackers.

All they need to do is breach the security for one service to compromise all your data and finances. At the very least, you should have a handful of passwords that are not too short.  Remember to make use of numbers and special characters to be on the safe side.

Be wary of public wifi

Searching for your favourite video or cat pictures on public wifi poses no problems. However, you should be careful about accessing highly sensitive information on these public networks. These networks are often unencrypted and unsecured, leaving you vulnerable to a man-in-the-middle attack.

These occur when a hacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communications between two parties. The victims may believe that they are directly communicating with each other. With this, hackers have the ability to access everything you see and type while using public wifi.

Opening and/or replying to suspicious emails

We have all received emails that made us raise our eyebrows questioningly. Some of these emails might just be plain weird but legitimate. But for the most part, if you ever receive emails from senders that you do not recognise, or have strange sender addresses, then don’t open them. If you accidentally open one, then do not reply to them.

These hackers and scammers impersonate professionals in order to try and get personal information from you. They offer up enticing rewards or scare you with misinformation, such as telling you that you have outstanding tax payments. Always double check the sender’s email address. 

It also helps to remember that government bodies do not send emails or use phone calls for important matters, it will always be a physical letter.

Online relationships

Catfish scams are among the most common scams in Malaysia. These scams are not limited to just phone calls, and can happen to people who tend to communicate online as well. These scammers will try to befriend you, gain your trust or make you fall in love with them. This may be over the course of weeks or months before suddenly asking you for urgent help, usually in the form of money!

These scams are dangerous as it seems innocent enough at first, beginning with simple conversations on some platform. Once they gain your trust, these scammers are quick and brutal, taking full advantage of your sympathy. Don’t transfer money to someone until they’ve fully gained your trust – and even then, be wary. True relationships do not rely on extortion.

Just recently, an elderly man almost lost SG$150,000 (approx. RM498,554) due to an online love scam. The man met his “girlfriend from the Netherlands” via Facebook. Eventually, he was convinced to bank in a cheque to an offshore account after the scammer asked for financial aid. Fortunately, the bank staff found this transaction suspicious.

Revealing personal info via phone

Phones are the classic medium for scammers to attack their targets. Identity thieves love to pull one over individuals, especially the elderly and vulnerable, into revealing their information by pretending to be from their bank or insurance company. These scammers will try to get information by offering fake deals, like credit card cash back offers or free trips. If you ever find yourself on a call about a deal that sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. 

If you are not too sure about the situation, call your credit card provider or bank directly to verify the offer is actually from them before revealing any information about yourself. Otherwise, don’t pick up a call from unfamiliar numbers at all. Phone calls today can be easily recorded, so you might want to refrain from revealing any personal information to anyone via phone. 

One recent case saw a woman from Kota Kinabalu duped out of RM350,000 because she was tricked into giving out her bank account information. She received a message on her phone that notified her of an online purchase in her name. When she called the attached phone number, the scammer identified themselves as a bank officer and asked for her banking information. The scammer then proceeded to transfer the money out of her account.

Saving your information on shared computers

There is a very good reason as to why you should not save login or other sensitive information on shared computers. Even if you are only doing so on a work computer used exclusively by you during the workday, you can never be 100 percent sure of who has access to said computer after you return from work.

Even company laptops that have been provided for your use could have the potential to compromise your personal information. Once you return said laptop, make sure you do a sweep to ensure you have cleared or deleted any stored personal data.

Always keep your guard up

These are just a few of the ways that open you up to being a target for cybercriminals. You can generally avoid all of these problems by staying vigilant and cautious when it comes to interacting with any unfamiliar communications, be it on your computer, phone, or even with people.

If you suspect that you have become a victim of a scam, quickly identify what information you may have leaked and contact the relevant parties as soon as possible to mitigate the issue. For example, if your credit card information has been compromised, let your card issuer know immediately so that they may take action.

If you want to know more about the common scams that occur in Malaysia, you can learn more here.

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