Despite the pandemic bringing entire nations to a standstill, fraudsters and criminals have not taken a break. Bank fraud reporting, in particular, has been swiftly rising. Fraudulent transactions grew by a staggering 35% in April alone as the pandemic took its toll in 2020.
Now, if you’ve ever experienced bank fraud, you know the overwhelming stress and anxiety it could cause. And it’s not just about financial loss. The hassle of dealing with the aftermath of fraud could be equally painful. To make matters worse, there’s no telling for how long its consequences might haunt you. Once your data is compromised, reversing the long-term impact could be next to impossible.
So, proactively taking steps to avoid such scams is pivotal to keep your financial wealth secure. Here’s what you need to know.
1. Set up strong passwords
Passwords are your first line of defense against a potential breach. So, making use of strong passwords is essential to protect not just your online bank accounts but also your devices and files. Make use of biometric technologies like facial recognition and iris scans available with many modern devices like laptops and smartphones.
Even non-bank-related accounts like social media profiles require password protection. If breached, these also have the potential to place you at risk of financial loss.
2. Avoid sharing credentials
Sharing account credentials with friends and family is one of the most common causes of data breaches. Account usernames and passwords are confidential, and it’s your responsibility to ensure that they remain so. Again, this applies to not only bank accounts but also all other profiles, files, and devices. As a practice, extend similar caution when sharing any type of identifiable information that could put you at risk if compromised.
3. Use a VPN
A VPN can shield you from unwelcome intrusions by malicious individuals. It can encrypt your online activities and prevent criminals from tracking your location so you can remain anonymous online. VPNs are an effective solution to ensure your online privacy, whether you’re using a laptop, tab, or smartphone.
4. Avoid phishing scams
According to a study by CSO, phishing was responsible for more than 80% of all reported breaches. There are many ways you can experience a phishing attack. For example, a hacker can send you an email in the guise of a charity. It could prompt you to make a donation using the link provided. The link takes you to a spoof website designed to steal your credit card details. Unsuspecting victims will only find out when they receive their credit card statements at the end of the month.
Criminals could also direct these attacks over the phone. For instance, they could impersonate your bank and attempt to extract your bank details under the pretext of verifying your identity. These are common call scams you’ll need to guard against.
5. Install a virus guard
Powerful virus guards are an essential tool to keep your devices safe from all sorts of malicious attacks. They can provide a range of important features to protect your devices by scanning files, websites, emails, and external devices like USBs. Some even come bundled with VPNs and password managers that could organize and securely store all your account passwords.
6. Avoid public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi has significantly improved accessibility to the internet. But it has also dramatically increased your exposure to data breaches. Public Wi-Fi networks are often highly unsafe and easy to hack. This can expose users to innumerable threats initiated by cybercriminals.
So, if you’re in the habit of using Wi-Fi at coffee shops, hotels, and malls, you need to think twice. In case you have to access the internet, encrypt your connection with a virtual private network. Another excellent option is to make use of your mobile network by opening up a hotspot.
7. Use a shredder
Security breaches are not always the result of sophisticated hacking attacks. Sometimes, all they need is a quick rummage through your trash. Surprisingly, many people prioritize their digital data, but not so much the hardcopy versions. But these could cause equal damage if found by a criminal.
The bottom line is, how you dispose of documents with sensitive or personal information matters if you intend to stay clear of bank fraud. Using a shredder is the easiest option to destroy them effectively and protect your data.
8. Choose reputed online vendors
Fraudsters often build spoof retail websites to steal financial and personal data. Hard-to-believe deals are typically the bait they use to attract customers to these sites. Innocent victims who fall for these scams could end up handing over both their money and bank details to criminals.
To avoid them, purchase only from reputed online sellers and marketplaces. Their deals might not be so attractive, but at least you can rest assured knowing that your bank details are safe.
9. Limit what you download
Malware-infected downloads can appear in many ways. For instance, they can come in the form of email attachments, downloadable reports on malicious websites, or even as third-party apps. And these can compromise the safety of your personal data, including financial details.
Therefore, run a virus scan and verify authenticity before downloading any type of file or software. Stay clear of suspicious-looking websites and stick to apps developed by reputed organizations.
10. Limit your online data trail
Minimizing the personal data you disclose online, no matter how trivial they seem, is also essential to prevent a data breach. Excessive sharing on social media, for instance, could make you an easy target for criminals. So, limiting what you divulge online is critical to avoid potential data threats.
If you suspect you’ve become a target of bank fraud, contact the relevant financial institution and request an investigation. Depending on the severity of the incident, inform law enforcement agencies and credit bureaus, too. Watch out for telltale signs and tackle any fraudulent activity head-on.