Hacking and identity theft are both on the rise with the advent of social media and the popularity of mobile smartphones. When you are browsing using your laptop PC, it is essential to understand what types of scams to look out for to avoid sharing personal and sensitive information with potential thieves and hackers.

Fake Websites

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Hackers and identity thieves thrive on their ability to trick potential victims with fake website URLs. When you are browsing online, always verify the website URL you are visiting, especially whenever you are logging in with your email address and password. Fake URLs look strikingly similar to the website address you intend to visit, often only including a small misspelling or an additional letter that goes unnoticed by most.

Verify that websites you enter personal information into are also secure and have an SSL certificate in place. Secure website URLs include security lock icon in the upper lefthand corner of the URL bar to indicate the website is safe and protected. Avoid logging into any website that does not include an SSL certificate in the form of a lock icon. Websites without an SSL certificate are much easier to hack for identity thieves and scammers, allowing them to access and steal user information on a whim.

Phishing Emails

Avoid opening emails from individuals you are unfamiliar with, especially if they are offering free money, discounts, or promoting a contest or giveaway you have won (even if you did not enter one). Phishing emails share enticing content and sometimes use blogs or social media platforms that you frequent to encourage you to open them. Clicking links that are unfamiliar or that are from senders you do not know may lead to websites that prompt you for information such as your email address and password.
Additionally, some links that are sent via email immediately download “keylogger” programs to your computer’s hard drive. Keylogging programs capture any and all keys pressed while using your computer and send the information to hackers and thieves so they are easily able to log into any of your online accounts, from social media platforms to your official banking website.

Password Tips

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Creating strong passwords is imperative to prevent hackers and identity thieves from obtaining your personal and financially-sensitive information. Selecting a strong password is possible by utilizing an online password generator or by choosing a password that is not relevant to your everyday life.

Always avoid using passwords that include the names of your children, pets, or special dates that are available publicly or with the use of social media (anniversaries or birthdays). Include both numerical characters as well as alphabetical characters when creating a password, implementing caps lock within each of your passwords. If possible, include unique characters such as exclamation points, asterisks, and other symbols that are difficult to guess. Write and store your passwords in a safe and secure area and utilize 2-way verification systems for your email and phone to maximize the protection of your data.

Top Anti-Virus/Malware Software

Choosing the right anti-virus/malware software is important before browsing online, regardless of your knowledge of the internet. Some of the most popular anti-virus programs include McAfee, Kaspersky, and Norton Anti-Virus. Before choosing an anti-virus program that is right for you, compare features, costs, and user reviews along with the current operating system you are using.

Remain vigilant whenever you are browsing online, whether you are using a laptop, desktop, or even your smartphone. With a complete understanding of the most prevalent scams and hacks occurring today, steer clear of potential security risks that lead to financial loss and in severe instances, identity theft.