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Best Practices to Protect Yourself Online Against Fraud

The digital world is unforgiving. There are potential dangers everywhere we go…from email accounts to payment processes to logging in to an online forum to chat about a current hobby. The level of sophistication and skill predators online have is always growing; waiting for a naïve user to walk into their trap.

Naivety is what these predators are looking for. Naivety in terms of lax security behind the scenes. Naivety from getting users to voluntarily giving out their personal information. And it’s this naivety that allows them to operate so successfully.

So how can you best protect yourself in this digital Wild West?

1. Passwords and Access – make them out of a combination of capital letters, numbers, special characters and spaces. The more combinations used, the more difficult it will be to steal. Change them relatively frequently and try not to reuse passwords on multiple sites. Change your home wifi router’s password from the default one that’s printed on the unit (and don’t make it public). Use two-factor authentication when possible.

2. Update your Phone and Computer – there are valuable security updates in these, don’t neglect them. Especially your antivirus software.

3. Assume in Bad Faith – never give out any of your information without being reasonably sure the company, person, service, etc is above board. If someone you’re dealing with over a service like PayPal asks you at the last minute to use “friends and family,” immediately cancel the transaction…in this case, PayPal will not refund any fraudulent activity. Go into any activity online where your information is being shared with extreme skepticism. Do not open any suspicious emails under any circumstances. Never purchase anything from a site that doesn’t start with “https://”

4. Public Wifi – be careful, as these are easy places for dishonest people to operate. Disable cookies on your browser for any site where it’s not completely necessary.

5. Social Media and Online Forums – set your profile as private, and do not share personal information. These sites are a goldmine for information, so restrict access only to people you know and trust.

6. Do not engage – one common way dishonest people get your information “voluntarily” is by calling you directly regarding something like a medical issue, or a maybe they’re telling you your computer has malware now, or that your grandson needs bail money. The longer you engage, the more chance they’ll have to be effective. Tell them “I will get in touch with my own doctor/IT group/lawyer” and end the conversation right there. Do not engage further.

Being stingy with your info, protecting your devices, and smartly navigating the internet (especially when making purchases) are easy and sustainable ways to protect yourself online.

Due to the sophistication of some of these scammers, some might be able to get in touch with you directly. In those cases, get their contact info, cut engagement off as soon as possible, and reach out to a relevant expert to advise you on how best to handle this. This is a way to keep their strategy from getting any traction.

Awareness is key here. Like I mentioned above, naivety is what these people are looking for…and if you’re aware of these things that you’re able to control yourself, you will be a much less inviting target.

Please reach out to me directly at if you have any questions or want to talk about this in more detail.

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