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Are you, your family and your business safe and secure online? Chances are you or someone you know has been a target by cyber criminals. Governor Walker has declared October as Cyber Security Awareness Month. Throughout the month, the ReadyWisconsin website will feature easy to follow tips that can stop cyber criminals before they strike your computer or mobile devices.
In 2012, people throughout Wisconsin lost $6.2 million through cyber rip-offs and scams. The average loss was more than $1700 per victim. Despite the warnings, thousands of people each year fall victim to cyber scams. Here are the top five reported cyber scams of 2012 in the nation.
• Auto Sales Fraud: Last year, more than 17,000 people were scammed more than $64 million when they tried to buy automobiles online. The scammers attract potential buyers by offering vehicles at below market prices. The scam is there is no vehicle. They refuse to meet in person or allow an inspection of the auto prior to sale. To make the deal appear legitimate, the criminal instructs the buyer to wire full or partial payment to a third-party agent via a wire transfer service, and to fax the payment receipt to the seller as proof of payment. The criminal pockets the money but does not deliver a vehicle. In a new twist, the criminals have attempted to pose as dealers instead of individuals selling a single car. This allows them to advertise multiple vehicles for sale at one time on certain platforms and attracting more victims.
• Romance Scams: Sometimes finding love can not only break your heart but also your bank account. Perpetrators scout the Internet for victims often through chat rooms, online dating sites and social media networks. These individuals seduce victims with small gifts, poetry, claims of common interest or the promise of constant companionship. Once the scammers gain the trust of their victims, they start asking for money. Last year more than 4,000 victims lost more than $55 million in these romance scams.
• Real Estate Fraud: These include rental scams where criminals take information from legitimate homes for sale ads and post it with their own email addresses on housing rental lists. Potential renters are then instructed to send money via a wire transfer service and in some cases fill out credit applications asking for personal information and social security numbers. Also beware of Timeshare and Loan Modification scams. In 2012, there were over 14,000 victims that lost $15 million in real estate online fraud.
• Intimidation/Extortion Scams: There are many of these types of scams including one where victims receive phone calls allegedly claiming to be legitimate software companies. The victims are told that malicious software (malware) has been detected on their computer. The criminal urges the victim to log on to their computer where they appear to demonstrate how the computer is infected. They then offer to rid the computer of malware for fees ranging from $49 to $450. In a similar scam, victims receive emails allegedly from the FBI that claim they have committed a crime and demand payments. More than $10 million was lost last year in these scams.
• Phishing and Spoofing: Phishing and Spoofing are somewhat synonymous in that they refer to forged or faked electronic documents. Spoofing generally refers to email which is forged to appear as though it was sent by someone other than the actual source. Phishing, often utilized in conjunction with a spoofed email, is the act of sending an email falsely claiming to be an established legitimate business in an attempt to dupe the unsuspecting recipient into divulging personal, sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account information after directing the user to visit a specified website. The website, however, is not genuine and was setup only as an attempt to steal the user’s information.
ReadyWisconsin wants to help you protect your digital life. Here are the top five tips from cyber security experts to help protect your computer and your bank account:
• Keep a Clean Machine: Keep your security software current by turning on automatic updates.
• Protect Your Personal Information: Don’t use the same password for your email, social media, and bank accounts. Once cybercriminals obtain that one password, they can raid all your accounts. Keep those passwords stored in a safe and secure place away from your computer.
• When in Doubt, Throw it Out: Links in email, tweets, posts, and online advertising are often used by cybercriminals to compromise your computer. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or if appropriate, mark as junk email.
• Think Before You Act: Be wary of communications that implore you to act immediately, offers something that sounds too good to be true, or asks for personal information.
• Get Savvy about Wi-Fi Hotspots: Limit the type of business you conduct and adjust the security settings on your device to limit access. Criminals may be able to access personal information when you use free Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or hotel.