Virtual Victims: Protecting Yourself and Your Children Against Cybercrime
Cybercrime is at an all-time high. The Department of Homeland Security explains that as Americans become more reliant on modern technology, they become more vulnerable to cyber attacks. Criminals aren’t just stealing your physical property anymore, they are robbing you virtually. Every single time you use the internet, you are at risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime and you should always use caution. As technology advances, so do cyber attacks. Learning about cybercrime can help protect yourself and your children from becoming virtual victims. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Learn the Lingo
- Unwanted emails that fill up our inboxes. Approximately 80% of emails we receive are worthless. Immediately report any emails that you receive that seem suspicious. Unsubscribe to recurring emails that you no longer wish to receive.
- When criminals send emails that scare you into providing personal information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and social security numbers. This information is then used to to steal from you.
- Software that spies on your internet activity and causes your computer to be flooded with pop-ups and unwanted ads.
Top 20 Types of Cybercrime
Sadly, there are countless ways criminals can commit crimes facilitated by the internet. Cybercrime is any criminal activity involving computers and networks. Cybercrime encompasses many different methods to affect computer and internet users. The National Crime Prevention Council compiled a list of the top common types of cybercrime that were reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Non-delivery of payment/merchandise (sellers/purchasers not receiving payment or merchandise)
- FBI-related scams (criminals posing as the FBI to defraud victims)
- Identity theft (using another’s personal information to commit crimes)
- Computer crimes (crimes targeting a computer or facilitated by a computer)
- Miscellaneous fraud (scams including sweepstakes and work-from-home scams)
- Advance fee fraud (letters or emails requesting fees or personal information)
- Spam (unsolicited, mass produced bulk messages)
- Auction fraud (misleading information in the context of an online auction site)
- Credit card fraud (unauthorized charging of goods and/or services to a victim’s account)
- Overpayment fraud (victims depositing bad checks for payment and sending excess funds to sender)
- Child pornography (creating, distributing, or accessing materials that sexually exploit underage children)
- Contraband (illegally transferring items via the internet)
- Copyright or trademark infringement (violating the exclusive rights to a trademark without authorization of the trademark owner)
- Money laundering (transferring proceeds from criminal activity with the intent of hiding the source and destination of funds)
- Cyber bullying (stalking, sending threatening messages, altering images and distributing such with the intent to harass or intimidate)
- Cyber terrorism (violence, usually politically motivated committed against a civilian population)
- Human trafficking (soliciting or advertising internet facilitated prostitution)
- Online gambling (using the internet to gamble)
- Hacking (illegally accessing a computer or network without authorization)
- Criminal mischief (damaging or destroying data with the intent to deprive owners and users)
Protect Your Computer
Taking measures to increase the security of your family’s computer can help prevent cyber attacks and let you use the internet with less threats. A virus that infects your computer can be extremely difficult to eliminate and can cause a number of problems and may never be able to fully be resolved.
- Keep your firewall turned on
- Install antivirus and antispyware softwares to your computer
- Keep installed softwares and technology updated
- Update your computers operating system when changes become available
- Research what is being downloaded to the computer
- Turn off computer when not in use
- Back-up important files to external storage devices and be vigilant when downloading from the internet
Everyday, thieves are learning new ways to gain access to your personal information and compromise everything you’ve worked so hard to protect. The National Crime Prevention Council reports that 81% of our home computers lack basic protection. Learning the many ways that cyber criminals can turn innocent internet users into virtual victims can help reduce the amount of internet crime that affects us.
- Use anti-virus software, firewalls, and other security measures to protect personal information
- Only open emails from familiar sources and only navigate to trusted websites
- Change passwords frequently, at least every 90 days
- Make passwords complicated and difficult to guess
- Do not allow computer programs to save your passwords
- Don’t share passwords with anyone, even friends or co-workers
- Read the fine print on website privacy policies
- Review financial statements regularly
Protect Your Children
Whether it is at home, school, a library, or a friend’s house, a large majority of children have access to the internet. According to the National Crime Prevention Council, 74% of 8 to 18 year olds can access the internet from their home computers. There is nothing wrong with this as long as parents take the necessary steps to secure their child’s safety when browsing the web. Online predators tend to target children specifically due to their vulnerability and lack of knowledge. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children about the dark side of the internet.
- Install parental control software and monitor your child’s internet use to keep kids safe online
- Establish family guidelines for appropriate computer use
- Instruct your child never to give out personal information online such as name, address, or school without your approval
- Teach your child about scams that appear as friendly emails or offers that are too good to be true
- Place your computer where you can see what your child is doing
- Install software that prevents access to inappropriate sites and chat rooms
- Teach your child what to do if they come across inappropriate sites or receive emails or invitations from strangers
- Learn how your children are using the internet by regularly checking browsing history and frequented sites and monitoring how much time they spend online
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Sasha is a new mother to her baby boy and is loving motherhood! Sasha has dedicated her career to protecting the public and has served in almost every realm of public safety. Sasha is the Spokesperson for a Fire Department and is committed to teaching both children and adults about fire safety and prevention. Before diving into the fire service, she was a triple certified Law Enforcement Officer, Emergency Medical Technician, and Ocean Rescue Lifeguard. Sasha received her undergraduate degree in Family, Youth, and Community Science from the University of Florida and also holds a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice. In her free time, Sasha loves traveling with her family, doing DIY projects, and all water activities, especially kayaking with her two dogs on board.