Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by PSECU, a Pennsylvania-based credit union.
To many people, anonymity is one of the most attractive aspects of technology. They can assume another identity, writing under an imaginary persona on social media platforms, or, in some cases, claiming a fictitious name as they speak on the phone. With minimal effort, they can conceal themselves.
This kind of concealment isn’t always negative, as many internet users feel more comfortable and willing to share their opinions. It encourages honest discussion, where the average person can enter conversations about sensitive subjects. Inflammatory “trolls” aside, online forums are often positive places for exploration.
At the same time, this kind of concealment fosters criminal activity. Beyond forums, scammers can create fake email accounts, inauthentic websites and other traps to retrieve personal data, all while sharing their techniques. Year after year, their scams become more sophisticated and difficult to recognize.
Fortunately, people who would otherwise fall victim to these scams have access to technologies which protect them against malicious individuals. This article explores five of those solutions, looking at some of the strategies that have improved the safety and security of internet users.
1. Two-Factor Authentication
Facebook’s popularity has come at a price, attracting scammers who see its immense user base as an opportunity to profit. Over the years, they’ve devised many different methods to steal personal information, and 2018 was no exception. Users had to learn how to identify a long list of new scams.
Social networks have addressed issues of privacy and personal data with two-factor authentication, available on sites other than Facebook. Even if another individual knows the user’s password, they won’t have access to the account, safe behind a second line of defense. This extra protection goes a long way.
2. Credit Monitoring Services
Avoiding scams isn’t always easy, and spyware serves as an excellent example. A scammer can access their victim’s data in just a few easy steps. As long as their target clicks on an embedded link within an email or website, they’ll unknowingly install software that jeopardizes their information.
Credit monitoring services can assist affected users with identifying and containing the problem before it escalates. These services inform the user of unauthorized increases in their current debt, applications for credit they didn’t initiate and other suspicious activity which warrants investigation.
3. Malware Scanning Programs
When malware infects a computer, its user can download a diverse range of different programs to help protect their information. Damage control is essential when dealing with these types of situations, and it’s crucial to attend to smaller issues in the early stages, before they grow into more serious problems.
As context, victims of identity theft spend an average of 60 hours and more than $1,000 attempting to reclaim their identity. They can protect themselves against criminals through the use of anti-virus and anti-malware removal tools. These tools can scan a system and remove programs which jeopardize personal data.
4. Smartphone Apps
Sometimes, protecting against hackers and scammers is as simple as downloading an app. Smartphone users have many options to choose from, any one of which can preserve their personal information and prevent malicious individuals from accessing their data. Of all the apps available, Log Dog is particularly useful.
Today’s internet users have accounts on a wide variety of sites, and Log Dog alerts them of any unusual activity on their system. Even if scammers gain access to their information, users can promptly address the issue. With scammers stealing $16 billion from U.S. consumers in 2016 alone, these apps are worth consideration.
5. The SmartScreen Filter
The SmartScreen filter is available on several Windows operating systems and browsers like Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer. It continually updates a list of security threats like phishing sites, malicious files and apps, preventing access with a notification. It guides users away from risks, preserving their safety.
While the SmartScreen filter can protect potential victims from viruses and malware, it doesn’t necessarily limit the user’s freedom. If they judge a file as safe, they can choose to bypass warnings and download something the system deems dangerous. Still, beyond user error, the filter helps avoid scams.
An Ongoing Battle
Anonymity is an attractive aspect of technology, but opportunistic criminals can easily exploit it for their gain. Even so, internet users have solutions to help them avoid and address scams. The five technologies above are only several of many methods for this purpose.
In the future, more methods will emerge which improve user security and combat scammers and hackers. Presently, two-factor authentication, credit monitoring services, malware scanning and other strategies are useful in the fight against identity theft and data misuse.
Check out this helpful infographic by PSECU – a not-for-profit credit union in Pennsylvania – outlining some of the most popular financial and identity theft scams.