How to Protect Yourself Online from Viruses, Scams, and Identity Theft

How to Protect Yourself Online from Viruses, Scams, and Identity Theft
How to Protect Yourself Online from Viruses, Scams, and Identity Theft

Social media platforms are becoming increasingly popular, and with that growth comes an increase in the number of cybercriminals using them. On websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and even LinkedIn, there is no shortage of them. With 2.9 billion monthly active users, Facebook has the most users, followed by Instagram with 1.4 billion. 

These websites have content, making them the ideal places for these thieves to include harmful links and other schemes. Over 95,000 people reported social media scams in 2021, according to the US Federal Trade Commission. Social media presents an excellent opportunity for consumers to become the targets of phishing attempts since it encourages people to share information and connect with others. 

Social media has several advantages, including maintaining contact with family members despite various life commitments and geographical distances. You can take basic steps rather than completely deleting social media to protect yourself.

Watch which URLs you click.

You risk contracting viruses, ransomware, and identity theft by clicking links and providing personal information there. Even if you choose not to enter personal data, accessing the link may result in malware download. These links can only hurt you if you click them.

Scammers will do anything to get you to click on these sites. They might send you fake-looking emails claiming your account has been locked, compromised, or similar. Even worse, these emails may be sent by family members, close friends, or coworkers (if they have already been hacked), enticing you to click a link because it leads to a movie or a gift card, or they may be pleading with you for assistance in accessing their accounts because "they have been hacked."

Always carefully examine the URL before entering any personal information or downloading anything. Never access a login page or download something from an email; manually type the address into your search bar. Be wary of shortened links like; use a URL expander to ensure they go where you think they should.

Safeguarding personal information

As we previously discussed, social media platforms are made to make it simpler to connect with people and share information. Your safety may be in jeopardy as a result of this information. When providing information online, consider whether it would be simple for someone to pass as you. By accepting specific friend requests, connections, and following, making your postings private, and limiting who may view your profile, you can take precautions to stay secure.

You can go one step further and Google yourself to see what data is accessible about you. A cybercriminal can obtain information from anything searchable. Some of them are researchers who can likely uncover more information than you can.

Check Requests

Since they are more likely to convince you to click a link, disclose information, or consent to a money request or retrieval, cybercriminals frequently post as coworkers or friends. Scammers may occasionally pose as establishments you frequently patronize to obtain your account information. Verify requests before acting on them to avoid this from happening.

To confirm that the request you received is valid, contact accounting or HR. Another choice is to enter the website's URL directly to access your account and check if there are any issues or unpaid amounts related to the email you just received. While it may seem annoying, you will be happy you spent the extra five minutes talking to someone because it will give you peace of mind and may even provide safety if it was an actual scam attempt.

Offers that Seem Too Good to be True

Be cautious if an email or link offers a fantastic discount, gift card, or another tempting offer that seems too good to be true. Frequently, things that sound too wonderful to be accurate are.

Some Important Lessons:

  • Use caution while clicking on Twitter and Instagram short links.
  • Do your research on any app or service that advertises itself as free.
  • Be cautious about sharing information, and monitor your personal and professional accounts.
  • Carefully review a person's LinkedIn profile before accepting a request. If anything seems strange about the invitation, disregard it.
  • Even if a YouTube video says it has been taken down due to copyright issues, avoid clicking any links that lead to other websites while using YouTube. This is a typical con.

Scammers take advantage of your lower defenses and exploit your emotional receptivity. Always lean on caution if the other person is employing threats, enticements, or a false feeling of urgency. 

If something doesn't seem right, believe your intuition. If you are concerned that you may come out as authoritarian or paranoid, keep in mind that it is better to be wary of a reasonable request than it is for you to believe a con artist.

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