By WJ Interests –

Cybercrimes, fraud and identity theft are serious threats and are among the fastest growing crimes in America. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics report in January 2019, over 26 million people experienced identity theft in 2016. A large majority of those identity theft incidents involved misuse or attempted misuse of credit cards or bank accounts. Constant vigilance is key. In this article, we will address the various threats and ways in which you can protect yourself against cybercrimes.

Common cyber threats

• Email Account Takeover

Occurs when a cybercriminal hacks an email account and reads emails to learn about the victim and their habits so they can pose as the victim to steal money.

• Malware

Malicious software created to damage/disable computers and computer systems steal data, or gain unauthorized access to networks. Malware may be installed on a computer when a user clicks an unsafe link, opens an infected file or visits a legitimate website that could contain adware.

• Phishing

Occurs when cybercriminals pretend to be a trustworthy source in order to acquire sensitive personal information, such as usernames, passwords, social security numbers and credit card details. For example, an email from a seemingly legitimate email address instructs you to click on a link to take action (e.g., “validate your account,” “confirm your identity,” “access your tax refund”).

• Social Engineering

Involves manipulating or impersonating others to divulge sensitive, private information and then demanding financial transactions be executed to avoid consequences. The cybercriminal commits fraud, steals your money and disappears.

• Call Forwarding

Occurs when a cybercriminal takes over your cell phone number and impersonates you or reroutes your calls. A cybercriminal gets the phone company to forward your cell number to their cell phone so they can impersonate you when your bank calls you back for verification before transferring funds or opening accounts.

• Spoofing

Occurs when a fake email header that gives the impression the email is from someone or somewhere other than the actual source, with the goal of tricking the recipient into opening and responding to the email.

Protecting your data

You can defend against most cyber attacks by remaining vigilant and being proactive. Install the most up-to-date antivirus and anti-spyware software on all devices. Hover over website links sent to you via email to ensure they are legitimate links before clicking on them. Be aware that secure websites start with https, not http. Be cautious about the information you choose to share on social media, keeping your personal information private (e.g., home address, phone number, employer, vacation dates, birthdate). Be selective about who you allow to join your social networks.  Check your monthly phone bill for any suspicious activity. This may include phone numbers you don’t recognize, or calls placed at odd times (e.g., during works hours, while overseas or on vacation).

Finally, safeguard your passwords and use a unique password for each account to prevent a quick and invasive attack on all of your accounts. Make each password unique and long and strong. Use 8-12 characters, upper- and lowercase letters and symbols. Most importantly, treat your passwords like your underwear; change them often and don’t share them with anybody.

WJ Interests, LLC has provided fee-only financial advice to individuals, families and businesses since 1996. For more information, please contact us at or 281-634-9400.