People all over the world spend a lot of time online. This means their personal information is easy to collect if someone chooses to look. In some ways, this access to personal information is helpful. For example, it helps old friends reconnect and families stay in touch, but in other ways, it can be detrimental to people’s livelihoods and finances because of cyber-crimes.
Most crimes perpetrated on the Internet do not make headlines. We are reminded regularly not to download music, movies and images without the proper consent, but besides pirating, there are many other internet crimes that the public is not as aware of.
What Can Happen To Your Information Online?
It seems like every time we turn around there is another story of a database breach at a major company or organization. Credit card companies, medical facilities and even credit reporting agencies have reported breaches in the last few years. When these hacks happen, your personal information can be stolen. In addition, when you sign up on certain online sites, your information can get sold to other companies.
Savvy hackers and con artists can do a lot with just a little information. Here are some of the most common ways hackers might use your information:
1. Spam and phishing
Anyone who gets ahold of your email address can send spam, which is multiple, unwanted emails. Usually, these spam messages are for commercial gain. Phishing is a more recent descendant of spam. Phishing consists of sending messages with the attempts to gather additional personal information. For example, a phishing email might pretend to be from your back and ask you to verify your bank account or credit card number. Or it might pretend to be from the IRS and ask you to confirm your social security number.
To fight spam and phishing, do not open emails from senders you do not recognize. Hover over the name of the sender and you will see the email address of origin. If it is not an official email, do not open it. Do not click to open attachments in messages from people you do not know.
If hackers collected enough information about you, they may find something sensitive or particularly embarrassing. A common cybercrime is threatening to expose this type of information to your family, friends or employers. This information is often collected by hacking into your email or social media accounts.
To fight blackmail, make sure your passwords are strong. Keep your social media accounts are private so that only people you know can see them. If you receive extortion communication, notify the police and keep a record of what is said by taking screenshots and saving emails and messages.
3. Fake storefronts
Many sites allow people to buy and sell goods directly from stores and other individuals. One crime related to e-commerce is the nondelivery of orders. In this case, the individual gathers your credit card and shipping information and never sends (or never intends to send) the goods you purchased. Your information can then be used by the store owner to make fraudulent purchases.
To avoid having your information stolen by fake storefronts, do some research before purchasing online. Read reviews of the vendors and only use sites that you trust. Also, use second party payment systems so the storefronts do not have access to your credit card information.
To learn more about how Grand Canyon University’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences provides students with the skills to track down and prosecute cybercriminals, visit our website or click the Request More Information Button on this page.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.