Email has become a popular way to keep in touch with family and friends, as well as being an important part of many people’s working lives. It’s a quick, convenient and easy way to communicate.
However, cyber criminals will often use email to try and trick people into downloading malicious software (spyware) or collect personal information from the user (phishing). This is often done by sending unwanted emails (spam).
Most email programs have an option for filtering out (or “junking”) spam emails. If the spam filter on your system is not already turned on as default, you can activate it using your filtering preference tab (use the programs “Help” tool from the menu if you can’t find the preference filter).
Most systems will also allow you to block email from specific addresses. This will vary from program to program. In Outlook select the message from the sender you wish to block, go to the “Actions” menu, go to “Junk email” and select “Add to blocked senders list”. In Hotmail select the message from the sender you need to block, click on the “Sweep” menu and select the option to “Block messages from this sender”.
Regardless of use of filters, please be careful when opening any mail from an unknown sender.
Phishing attacks use email or malicious websites to collect personal and financial information. An urgent email requesting account information, appearing to be from a reputable bank or credit card company, will often be their preferred approach. When the recipient responds with the information, the criminals can then use it to gain access to accounts.
- Do not reveal personal or financial information in an e-mail and do not respond to email solicitations for this information.
- Check the URL of the website. The address may look the same as a legitimate site on first glance, but may use a slightly different spelling or different domains (e.g. .net instead of .co.uk)
- To check the legitimacy of an email, contact the company it is supposed to be from directly. To do this please ensure you use contact information from an account statement NOT the information provided in the email.
- Install anti-virus software and firewalls to and keep them up to date.
- If you believe that your financial accounts have been compromised, contact your financial institution immediately.
How to check a website’s credentials
Check the security of internet banking and shopping websites and use them safely by following these tips:
- Always look for and click on a padlock or key symbol which will detail the security of that site. This will usually be at the top or bottom of your screen. Double click on the icon for more information.
- Check that the secured site has an address that starts with “https”.
- Always type the full web address into your browser to reduce your chances of being directed to a fake or spoof site.
- Always log out of secure sites properly when you have finished your session.
Ensure that you have a security suite (including firewall, anti virus and anti spyware) installed and updated with the most current information.
If you are buying from a seller you have never used before carry out some independent research before you buy. Ensure that you note physical addresses of the business and phone numbers to call if there is a problem with your transaction.
Try to make up passwords that are difficult to crack, using a mixture of letters, numerals and symbols. Do not have one password that you use for all your accounts.
Never send cash or use a money wiring service to pay for goods bought online as this leaves you little recourse if something goes wrong. Credit cards may allow the user to claim a credit from their card issuer if the product isn’t delivered and may place a limit on the amount you will be responsible for paying if your information is stolen and misused.
Print and save records of your online transactions. Read your credit card statements as soon as they arrive and contact your card issuer if there are any discrepancies. Log out from your session and turn off your computer when you have finished.
Social networking sites have become incredibly popular with people of all ages. They are a good way to keep friends up to date about what’s going on in your life, but you should be careful about what information you share and how you share it.
Learn about the privacy settings on your social networking sites which will enable you to restrict who gets to see what you post. Use the tools available to manage the information you share with different friends in different groups.
Be cautious about how much personal information you post. The more information you post the easier it may be for someone to use that information for identity theft or for other crimes such as stalking.
If someone harasses or threatens you remove them from your friends list and report it to the site administrator.
Protect your computer
Install a security suite with antivirus, antispyware and firewall that is set to automatically update regularly.
Be cautious about messages that contain links
Even links that look like they come from a friendly source may be part of a malware or phishing attack. See the advice on phishing elsewhere in this section.
As well as phishing attacks which are dealt with elsewhere in this section there are a number of online scams that you should be aware of.
Advanced fee fraud
This is sometimes known as the Nigerian 419 scam. It may entail you being contacted by someone purporting to be a government official who is seeking your help to transfer a large sum of money. They claim they will reward you with a share of the money that is being transferred. All that is likely to happen is that you will be asked to pay sums of your own money for “handling fees”, “taxes” or “legal costs”. You will not see that money, or your promised share of the original sum, again.
In a similar way to the 419 scam, the lottery winner scam will involve you being contacted to inform you that you have won a large sum of cash (or another valuable prize). You will be asked to provide your card details to pay for any handling charges. You will lose this money and never see your promised “winnings”. With this scam, always consider what your chances of winning a lottery (or other competition) that you never entered are.
There are several types of fraud involving online auctions, even on reputable sites. The most common of these is to pay for an item that you will never receive or the product you were promised and have paid for turns out to be a counterfeit or in other way inferior product. Always find out as much as you can about the seller and remember that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Reshipping and payment processing fraud
This scam will involve you being contacted by someone purporting to be a reputable offshore company asking you to assist them with processing payments (such as accepting and forwarding payments and taking a percentage) or accepting receipt of goods and forwarding them onto the “company”. This is likely to be either a type of money laundering or the goods you are receiving are likely to have been stolen.