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  • Writer's pictureDoug Burns

Cyber Security and Fraud Risk

A growing risk in today’s digital environment is the possibility of cyber-crime and fraud. These types of crime come in various forms and with October being Cyber Security Awareness month, we want to pass along some tips to help better protect yourself from being a victim.


Many of us are inundated daily with calls and emails from solicitors, trying to garner our attention. Most of us have received emails from the “Prince of Nigeria” who wants to share his money, but internet scams have now become even more sophisticated. While many of these contacts are merely a nuisance, we must remain “on guard” that these requests are of a more sinister nature.


The following are some reminders of practices to help protect yourself:


Phone Tips –

· Passwords - With the increase of personal information now housed on our cell phones it is very important to ensure that you have a password protection on your phone to use the device. This will help prevent users from accessing this info if the device falls into the wrong hands.


· Phone Calls - When you receive phone calls from unknown numbers, it is generally good practice to avoid these calls. If it is an important call, they will likely leave you a number to call back. Sometimes callers will pose as a representative from an institution, but you should NEVER divulge personal information to these callers. If they tell you there is an issue with an account you may have, you should make sure you hang up and call the institution directly, using a known number.


· Text Messages – Often we receive unsolicited texts from numbers we may not recognize. Sometimes these texts contain hyperlinks that may open websites (on smartphones). It is very important not to use the hyperlinks, as it could redirect you to a website containing malicious software. Again, if it appears from an institution you may know, it is better to call the institution directly.


· Software Updates – Ensure you keep your phones updated with the latest security releases.


Computer Tips –

· Passwords – Utilize strong passwords for all devices and any online accounts. Passwords should contain multiple types of characters and not have any easily “guessed” words associated with them. Never divulge personal information to people contacting you in an unsolicited manner. When available you should always use “multi-factor authentication” where you are contacted (usually by text) for a second security code to access devices and or websites.


· Unsolicited Emails – Many fraudsters may send emails that appear to be from a known institution. It is very important to check the email from which it was sent. Often, when you hover over the “From” field, an unusual email address emerges. Please note that these email addresses may even appear at first glance to be legitimate, but a slight misspelling could be the only clue you have.


· Attachments – Unless you are expecting an email from someone, you should not open attachments on your computer. These attachments can be a “Trojan Horse” with embedded software that can wreak havoc on your computer.


· Unusual Web Addresses – Avoid websites with information that seems illicit. Many web browsers will alert you when the security of the site seems compromised. Also, utilize well-known search engines when searching for websites. This can help you avoid websites that may appear to be trusted but have misspellings and may not be from the organization you think they represent.


· Accessing Data on Public Networks – Many businesses will provide free WIFI access to their patrons. Never use these networks to transmit sensitive information. There may hackers on the network who can intercept your information.


· WIFI – On your home network, ensure you have a password to access information. This can help prevent someone from logging into your system to take your data.


· Anti-Virus Programs and Firewalls– It is a good practice to have an anti-virus program installed on your computer and firewalls installed on your home network. Ensure it is up to date and it is helpful to regularly scan for both viruses and malware.


There are many ways criminals try to gain access to your information and new methods are developed every day. Therefore, we recommend that everyone takes a cautious approach if they are asked for information from others. Always double check the source before divulging anything and it is a good practice to password protect documents that may contain sensitive information.


Here at BPC Advisors, we remain vigilant to the risks that are out there and have taken steps to help protect information, including the above recommendations and more. If you want more tips on how to stay safe, please look go to the government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s website (www.cisa.gov/cybersecurity-awareness-month-resources).

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