7 Things you should do to avoid getting scammed online

Avoid public Wi-Fi and public access computers.
Avoid public Wi-Fi and public access computers. PHOTO/FILE
The cyberspace is full of fraudsters looking to con people out of their hard-earned money.

While many people think that criminals only target big companies where they are sure of extorting huge amounts of money, the truth is that individuals are also at risk. As long as there is an element of vulnerability in your computer, the attacks are indiscriminate.

The best way to avoid falling prey to cyber crime is by familiarizing yourself with the many forms it can take, how they are coined and how to easily spot and avoid being scammed online.

Here are seven easy but highly effective things you should do to protect yourself from online cyber fraudsters.

1.) Use strong passwords
Passwords are a necessary security measure for user verification and access approval. Although we would all want to use easy to remember passwords, that simplicity can predispose our computers to attacks.

Make sure your passwords have at least eight characters consisting of a mixture of alphabets; both upper and lower case, numbers and symbols. Avoid using the same password for all your online accounts. In addition remember to change the password regularly.

2.) Install reliable security software
Investing in a good antivirus, firewall and antispyware software can prevent scammers from hacking into your computer. A firewall guards your computer against communication to and from sources you do not permit while an antivirus scans for and blocks any viruses found in your incoming files and emails.

Antispyware on the other hand protects against spyware which can be used by spammers to record your key strokes, redirect you to websites or send pop up ads to your computer. It is crucial to keep the antivirus up to date at all times.

3.) Keep private information private
To avoid identity theft, information such as your full names, date of birth, phone number and address should be shared with caution. Make use of privacy settings while on social networks and do not respond to emails and pop ups asking you to provide personal information.

4.) Deal with well-known and reputable vendors
When shopping online, stick to sites you have used before or those with good reviews. Ensure you stick to secure sites which have the locked padlock symbol and the URL starts with https instead of http. Look out for sites which have the https but go back to http when you log into them. Do not store your credit card details on any website for future use.

5.) Avoid public Wi-Fi and public access computers
Wi-Fi hotspots and public computers usually do not encrypt data therefore avoid any online activities that involve the use of personal information since it might be intercepted. Make sure you switch off your phone’s Bluetooth when using the internet in public places.

6.) Ignore spam emails and pop ups
Cyber criminals can easily infect your computer with a virus by luring you to open attachments and links. A simple click automatically downloads the malware which scavenges around for personal information especially financial details and sends it to the criminals.

Through your social media accounts, they are able to see the things you like and craft a message that will most likely interest you. Do not be convinced to open emails from unknown sources as well as links, attachments and pop ups.

7.) Back up your files regularly
If, unfortunately, the worst happens and you fall victim to cyber crime rendering your computer unusable, it would be of great help if you had the files stored in another location.

Store the data in a storage device or an old computer that has no internet connection. In a case where the criminals want you to pay a ransom for the data, having a backup can save you the money you would have paid.