By Wilma Bedford
Over and above the uncertain financial times in which we live, there are also robocallers, scammers and hackers who will do their utmost to gain control of your personal and business finances.
How do you outwit and avoid them and how do you protect yourself?
Make sure – however painful it might be – of your financial reality: how much do you have in which account, where are your investments, what are your obligations and what are the monthly income, expenses and movements on your accounts. Also be aware of your own emotions – your fears and expectations, as these are instruments in the hands of cyber thieves with which they thrive on unsuspecting persons’ fears and vulnerability in order to obtain your personal and bank details.
Now is also the time you receive a flood of emails offering you financial relief by offering you loans or better interest rates or informing you that a repayment from an employer or SARS has been made out to you – or that an unclaimed inheritance is awaiting you. The purpose of these emails is to obtain your personal information and your banking details. Don’t react to these emails, especially if the address (URL) appears unfamiliar. Look at the URL; at first glance some domain names may look in order, but just a .co or a .com.co in the URL are danger signs. These are websites that represent themselves as legitimate and cause confusion with the legitimate .com and .org websites. Install an advertisement blocker on your computer and on your smart phone for safety. If you actually do expect a legitimate repayment, contact the company or organisation that owe you money and first negotiate with them verbally before sending information about yourself into cyber space.
Guard against messages that sow disinformation, such as that excellent Covid-19 protection or testing equipment or a proven cure is available at a special price and can be purchased online. These are websites that pretend to be legitimate by using a misleading URL and that want to resemble an official corona website by providing statistics and up to date figures. The website will offer an app that you have to download to keep you abreast of corona incidents. Behind this scam hackers are hiding who steal your browsing history, ID and crypto money through software known as AZORult, that plants a mole on your computer. Only download apps from acknowledged sites such as Apple’s App Store and Google play.
You might also receive notification that your computer has been infected with a virus that can be rectified immediately by telephone by granting the person access to your computer. Don’t react; the purpose of these messages or calls is to mislead you to provide your details and to download a mole onto your computer.
Scam callers are also generally active and their tactic is to take advantage of your fears. You may receive a call from someone who pretends to be from your bank and who informs you that an outside organisation (usually Nigerians) are at this moment trying to empty your bank account. The caller states that he/she can stop this immediately but needs your ID number and banking details immediately. Usually these callers work in pairs; one extracts the information from you and relays it to the second person who is busy negotiating with your bank’s support facility to, among others, discover weak spots in the system. Cut this discussion short and contact your bank and report this incident to their fraud unit. Remember the golden rule you were taught as a child: don’t talk to strangers, especially if they want your personal information – this also applies to the downloading of apps or opening unfamiliar links or attachments to emails that you aren’t expecting.
If you are working from home, keep your personal and work computers separate. Hackers want to obtain your business information and by infiltrating your personal email your business network can also be penetrated. Don’t use your own computer, email address or messaging app for your business.
Test your computer’s network security and your wi-fi router regularly and make sure that you update frequently if it does not do so automatically on your system. If your system is more than seven years old, you will probably no longer be receiving automatic updates. Your passwords. PIN and password on your router are worth their weight in gold in the hands of cyber thieves, so keep them safe. By investing in a reliable antivirus programme, you will also receive regular updates and ensure youhave peace of mind.
Kaspersky is a reliable website that you can consult about the latest hoaxes and scams in cyber space and how you can protect yourself.
A Guide to Pandemic Scams, and What not to Fall For
Chen, Brian X. Tech Fix. The New York Times. https://www.nyt.com/202
Best Antivirus 2020. http://www.antivirusguide.com
COVID-19: How to stay safe from hackers and avoid Coronavirus scams