How to Avoid Being Ripped Off by a Scam or Hack

scam aware 140x90Scammers and Hackers are becoming more and more active by the day. They operate on your doorstep, on your phone and more readily on your computer.
Their reward? Your hard earned money!

Luckily our treasured independent broadcaster, the BBC, has produced a guide which brings to light the dangers we are exposed to.

The guide is in its iWonder series and is entitled “How do I avoid being ripped off by a scam?”. Click here to view the guide but do also read the rest of this article for some further considerations relating to your computer and the Internet.

The guide can get a bit heavy towards the end and you may use the later parts for future reference.

My Reaction on reading the guide

Having read the guide I felt that I had received a hefty wake-up call to investigate how vulnerable I am to invasions of my computers by villains and how to protect myself from very costly abuse of information I have stored on my computers.

What makes us even more vulnerable is our attitude that “surely this can’t happen to me so I don’t need to do anything”. Sadly, this is a very outdated and hence a misguided reasoning for safely conducting our lives.

Scammers and Hackers take advantage more and more of internet probing software and using invasive techniques to steal our identity, credentials and asset references from our computers.

Being incensed by the guide, I then spent 2 hours searching my computer for personal details about banks, investments, etc. I thought I had secured everything under password protected files on cloud-based “secure” servers eg Dropbox, OneDrive, Google Drive. But what if these were hacked?Banks have been as we know.

Not so long ago hacking was unheard of, so password or encrypting of confidential information was not generally employed – a sign in on our computers of username and password were to be all that was needed to protect our data  should we lose our laptop.

But now hacking is carried out when we are on-line through invisible program code loaded onto our computer when accessing a website on the Internet.

This led me to think how else my data might be vulnerable and I came up with these items to check.

  1. Look for any old files you don’t now use, perhaps transferred from previous computers, but may have been used to hold references and passwords for investments, savings accounts, insurance policies, pensions, etc.
  2. Search all the disk drives on your computer and cloud servers  you use for the names of these assets.

Today, our computers can be, and indeed are, invaded by the operating system providers, eg Microsoft, Apple, Google, at any time without asking our permission.
This is justified for the downloading and installing of updates to the operating systems for security protection from hackers and for changes to the operating systems.
This happens even when the computer is put into Sleep or Hibernate mode.
Also, I’m not sure that a computer that is supposedly shut down is unreachable from the Internet – but I have my suspicions that they are vulnerable to intrusion if left connected to the Internet and contain a battery or are have a mains connection.

So, we are not in control of the data on our Internet-connected computers at all!

One thing that is essential is to install Internet Protection Software on our computers to guard against hacking and viruses.

My final thought is to stick your access and password codes onto untitled documents hidden in your dirty washing basket!

Article by Geoff Caine

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