Don’t Let These Scary Cyber Safety Risks Creep Up On You

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the Better Business Bureau is scaring up the latest on cyber security risks and ways to avoid them. Watch out for these spooky dangers lurking in the corners of our everyday digital lives.

They’re here. Scary scammers can get to you right through that small screen in your hand – your smartphone. Consumers tend to be less wary in social media channels and scammers are taking shocking advantage of that fact. A new scam report based on BBB Scam TrackerSM data shows that of consumers who said they were exposed to a scam on social media, a whopping 91% engaged with the scammer and 53% of them lost money. Security analysts reported this month that over half of all social media logins are fraudulent, and one-fourth of new account applications are fake.

“Social media platforms are full of suspicious characters,” said Claire Rosenzweig, President and CEO of BBB Serving Metropolitan New York. “Be especially careful if you spot offers in your social channels that look too good to be true – scammers often lure victims that way.”

Hacked “smart” devices could haunt your house. The “Internet of Things” is on the rise. A wide array of inventive devices can now interconnect your home and your world: your car, your fridge, your baby monitor, your doorbell, your air conditioner – even your window blinds. In exchange for convenience, consumers are putting trust in all kinds of online smart devices, opening up new threats to security and privacy and creating points of entry for sinister hackers to exploit. Did you hear a strange voice in your house? It could be the voice of a hacker who has taken over one of your internet-connected devices.

Evildoers in disguise are on the prowl. Sneaky phishers can gather information about you and make convincing fake email accounts to pose as your boss, lawyer, realtor, or someone else you trust. Typically, they target people and organizations that may be involved in high-dollar transactions, so the risk of major monetary loss is high, too. It’s more important than ever to double-check the identity of your online contact before you transmit payments or provide personal information.

Crypto keepers may ghost you. Highly unregulated and rapidly growing, cryptocurrency markets are rich in treats for tricksters. Cryptocurrency or “crypto” is an online form of payment that can fluctuate in value. Crypto trading platforms can be high-ticket playgrounds for hackers and “pump and dump” schemers who vanish into the night after they take your money. Crypto scams can spread through – you guessed it – social media.  Between Halloween 2018 and today, BBB ScamTrackerSM received 263 reports from cryptocurrency scam victims. Of these, nearly half reported losing $1,000 or more, and 15% lost $10,000 or more.

So what can you do to protect yourself from such ghoulish tricks?

BBB offers these tips:

  • In social media, don’t be too quick to click on ads that offer improbably good deals.  Research companies with and other online sources before you buy.
  • Secure your smart devices and consider installing anti-malware on your smartphone. Configure and monitor app settings for privacy, encrypt your WiFi, name your router, and keep your software up to date. Ask the manufacturer or seller about smart device set up and vulnerabilities.
  • Learn the warning signs of dangerous Business Email Compromise (BEC)
  • Get the facts before you consider investing in cryptocurrency. Tips:
  • Use multifactor authentication to secure your logins—everywhere. However, using your private phone number for that purpose could expose you to some risks. Consider creating an Internet phone number for online authentication instead.
  • Change passwords often, and keep them long and strong. Pass phrases are more complex and may be more secure.
  • Never download or install files from unverified sources.
  • Check out the 2019 National Cybersecurity Awareness Month interactive toolkit.
  • Manage a business or a nonprofit? See BBB tips on the 5-step approach to strengthen your cybersecurity.