BBB Trends: No rest from cybercriminals — think before you click because someone is out there

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By Sandra Guile
Better Business Bureau

More than $50 billion is lost to financial fraud each year and most of it is committed online simply by accessing an unsecured website or not having a strong password. Without having either protections in place, thieves are able to quickly make a profit and commit identity theft using information that is easily accessible.
 
Crimes are committed with a click

The crimes are not necessarily new – such as theft, fraud, illegal gambling, the sale of fake medicines – but the FBI says they are evolving quickly and therefore becoming more widespread and damaging.
 
Fraudsters are constantly looking for consumer credentials they can find and it doesn’t matter if it’s on a personal computer or in a business database.

How is stolen information used?

A study conducted by the Federal Trade Commission discovered when given the opportunity, cyber thieves will quickly take advantage of email and payment information such as credit card or bank account information for their own shopping sprees. Social Security numbers, medical insurance policy information and birth dates can be used to apply for credit cards, buy cell phones and receive medical treatment on your health insurance.
 
Computer experts say there are nearly 4,000 hacking sites on the web allowing any petty criminal to learn how to become an accomplished hacker from the comfort of a coffee shop.
 
Who is vulnerable?

Small business computer systems are at high risk for identity theft because they may not have the most optimal security system in place to protect customer credit card records and employee payroll files. Many of them may not, in some cases, don’t use or keep access logs so they may not know when or if their data has been compromised until it’s too late.
 
Another source of computer identity theft is former employees hacking into the networks and computers of former employers using insider knowledge or password accounts that were never canceled. Opportunist hackers are amateurs and professionals who spend hours a day running random scams on the Internet looking for unprotected home computers.

When they find one, they’ll often poke around inside the network or computer to see what’s worth taking. Sometimes the opportunist hacker will access Smart TV’s and wireless home electronics to silently spy on homeowners when the default password for the device isn’t changed.
 
Lock it up

When it comes to keeping your financial and personal information safe online, be sure to update the firewalls and antivirus software on all of the electronic devices in your home or businesses. From there, maintain them with the latest patches provided by the manufacturer, especially if any of them access the internet. Be careful about the types of websites you visit, what you click on and the apps that you download.
 
If you’re shopping online, make certain the retailer has a secure portal for your financial information and always use a credit card for the purchase. Follow up by checking all of your statements to make sure all of the transactions are yours.
 
Think before you click and remember to be aware that someone might out there watching what you’re doing online. Look for more cyber tips on bbb.org.

Sandra Guile is the Community Outreach Specialist for BBB. She promotes BBB’s message of marketplace ethics through public speaking engagements, presentations, media relations, press releases, web content, and other written materials. Contact Sandra at (513) 639-9126 or sguile@cincinnati.bbb.org. The BBB of Central & Eastern Kentucky is located at 1390 Olivia Lane, Suite 100 , Lexington, KY 40511. Reach them at 859-259-1008 or toll-free at 1-800-866-6668. For general inquiries: info@bluegrass.bbb.org

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