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Simple Steps to Protecting Yourself Against Online Scams (Phishing, SMishing, Vishing)

Beware of Phone Scams

Anyone who is connected to the internet will be a target of online scams. These scams are common and come in a variety of ways. Scams may be on your smart phone via text, in an email and even in the form of a phone call. The key to keeping yourself safe from getting scammed is to be aware of various methods scammers use to try and trick you.

Scammers want to get money out of you. They do this by stealing your personal information and having you pay for something you don’t need. Once you are more attentive to the methods online scammer use, you’ll be more quipped to recognize them and even more importantly, ignore them.

Let’s review what these methods are and also give you some tips on how to confirm whether an email, text or phone call is legitimate or not. There are three main ways scam artists use to get your attention and fool you. Phishing, SMishing and Vishing. Here is what each of them mean and how you can protect yourself if presented by one of these methods.

Phishing

Phishing happens when a scam is sent to you via email. Most often, a scammer will invite you to click a link to gain access to your personal information. They will pose as a legitimate company, such as a bank, an online streaming service or social media platform. Basically, any online account you may or may not have is fair game.

You may not even use one of these services and wonder why they are targeting you. This is why it’s called Phishing. The term was created to sound like the word ‘fishing’. Someone fishing on a lake will cast their hook out into the water. They don’t know how many fish are in the lake. They don’t see the fish or know whether any of them are even interested in the bait on the hook. But the person fishing knows there may be at least one fish that will take a bite and be hooked. Another way to look at it is this. Imagine someone fishing from a boat with a large net. Not all the fish will be caught, but many will.

In the same way an online scammer will send the same email to millions of people. It may be for a company you don’t have an account to. But many other people getting the same email could be tricked into clicking the link. By doing so they will log in to a fake website and the scammer will capture their username and password. This will give the scammer access to the user’s real account in order to steal their identity.

How to Protect Yourself: Never click on a link you receive in an email, even if you think the email is legitimate from an account you have. Simply go to your web browser and visit your account’s website directly or by using a bookmark you’ve created. Log in from there and check to see if there are any issues with your account.

Phishing only works because people are not paying attention. For example, let’s say you just ordered a package from Amazon. Shortly afterward, an email arrives stating that there is something wrong with your shipment. This is probably a coincidence. You can see how easy it would be to click the link since you just sent a package.

SMishing

SMishing is when a scammer sends a message to you via text. It is called SMishing because texting is also known as SMS (short message services). Just like Phishing, criminals who want to steal your information or money cast a wide net via text to catch people off guard. SMishing is a more recent problem. There has been a lot of information about email scams over the past few years. Now, we need to be also be on the look out for SMishing scams on our phones. Most often these are security texts which appears to be from a bank stating that something is wrong with your account. The goal is the same. To trick you into giving over your personal information.

SMishing may also come in the form of a positive message. It may be a great deal on something but by clicking you may end up paying for something you won’t receive. Most recently with the Coronavirus outbreak, there have been text scams offering free face masks or hand sanitizer.

How to Protect Yourself: Be careful when clicking links in a text. Never click on a link associated with an account you may have, such as a bank account or any online account, including Spotify or Facebook. Of course, friends may send you links to websites or videos. In that case, just be extra careful and pay close attention to who is sending you the link.

Vishing

The “V” in Vishing stands for voice call scams. We’ve all received them. We’ve all been greatly annoyed by these scam phone calls that come from a foreign or strange looking phone number. Worse yet, many calls that are spoofed to look like a local number. The Spoofing of a phone number is when a caller makes it look like they are calling from a particular number, but the call is actually from different location altogether.

Just like other scams you need to be ready to think before you respond. The call may sound like it’s from a legitimate establishment. Adults are often tricked into thinking the call is from their government’s tax collection service. If the call is fact real, they won’t be threatening the receiver with arrest by the police if they don’t pay immediately, as scammers often do.

How to Protect Yourself: Never give any personal information over the phone, even if the person sounds like they are from a real company. If in doubt, hang up and call the company directly. If the caller is uttering threats or demanding information or money, hang up! You can also do your part to stop the scammer by reporting it. Google the contact information for your country’s anti-fraud center. You can call them or submit a report online from their website.

Protecting Your Computer from Scams:

On a final note, it’s important for anyone with a computer or laptop to also protect themselves from malware and viruses. If you accidentally click on a bad email link, you have better protection with a secure computer.

  1. Make sure your operating system’s security features are activated and up to date.
  2. Then install a reputable anti-malware software program. This type of program will also offer protection when surfing the web, in the event you land on an infected website that is trying to access your personal information.

These types of malicious websites may also try to secretly install malware on your computer and direct you to fake websites. You could also be infecting other computers through email without your knowledge.

To ensure you don’t have malware currently on your computer, you can do a free scan using MalwareBytes.

Anyone who is connected to the internet will be a target of online scams. These scams are common and come in a variety of ways. Scams may be on your smart phone via text, in an email and even in the form of a phone call. The key to keeping yourself safe from getting scammed is to be aware of various methods scammers use to try and trick you.

Scammers want to get money out of you. They do this by stealing your personal information and having you pay for something you don’t need. Once you are more attentive to the methods online scammer use, you’ll be more quipped to recognize them and even more importantly, ignore them.

Let’s review what these methods are and also give you some tips on how to confirm whether an email, text or phone call is legitimate or not. There are three main ways scam artists use to get your attention and fool you. Phishing, SMishing and Vishing. Here is what each of them mean and how you can protect yourself if presented by one of these methods.

Phishing

Phishing happens when a scam is sent to you via email. Most often, a scammer will invite you to click a link to gain access to your personal information. They will pose as a legitimate company, such as a bank, an online streaming service or social media platform. Basically, any online account you may or may not have is fair game.

You may not even use one of these services and wonder why they are targeting you. This is why it’s called Phishing. The term was created to sound like the word ‘fishing’. Someone fishing on a lake will cast their hook out into the water. They don’t know how many fish are in the lake. They don’t see the fish or know whether any of them are even interested in the bait on the hook. But the person fishing knows there may be at least one fish that will take a bite and be hooked. Another way to look at it is this. Imagine someone fishing from a boat with a large net. Not all the fish will be caught, but many will.

In the same way an online scammer will send the same email to millions of people. It may be for a company you don’t have an account to. But many other people getting the same email could be tricked into clicking the link. By doing so they will log in to a fake website and the scammer will capture their username and password. This will give the scammer access to the user’s real account in order to steal their identity.

How to Protect Yourself: Never click on a link you receive in an email, even if you think the email is legitimate from an account you have. Simply go to your web browser and visit your account’s website directly or by using a bookmark you’ve created. Log in from there and check to see if there are any issues with your account.

Phishing only works because people are not paying attention. For example, let’s say you just ordered a package from Amazon. Shortly afterward, an email arrives stating that there is something wrong with your shipment. This is probably a coincidence. You can see how easy it would be to click the link since you just sent a package.

SMishing

SMishing is when a scammer sends a message to you via text. It is called SMishing because texting is also known as SMS (short message services). Just like Phishing, criminals who want to steal your information or money cast a wide net via text to catch people off guard. SMishing is a more recent problem. There has been a lot of information about email scams over the past few years. Now, we need to be also be on the look out for SMishing scams on our phones. Most often these are security texts which appears to be from a bank stating that something is wrong with your account. The goal is the same. To trick you into giving over your personal information.

SMishing may also come in the form of a positive message. It may be a great deal on something but by clicking you may end up paying for something you won’t receive. Most recently with the Coronavirus outbreak, there have been text scams offering free face masks or hand sanitizer.

How to Protect Yourself: Be careful when clicking links in a text. Never click on a link associated with an account you may have, such as a bank account or any online account, including Spotify or Facebook. Of course, friends may send you links to websites or videos. In that case, just be extra careful and pay close attention to who is sending you the link.

Vishing

The “V” in Vishing stands for voice call scams. We’ve all received them. We’ve all been greatly annoyed by these scam phone calls that come from a foreign or strange looking phone number. Worse yet, many calls that are spoofed to look like a local number. The Spoofing of a phone number is when a caller makes it look like they are calling from a particular number, but the call is actually from different location altogether.

Just like other scams you need to be ready to think before you respond. The call may sound like it’s from a legitimate establishment. Adults are often tricked into thinking the call is from their government’s tax collection service. If the call is fact real, they won’t be threatening the receiver with arrest by the police if they don’t pay immediately, as scammers often do.

How to Protect Yourself: Never give any personal information over the phone, even if the person sounds like they are from a real company. If in doubt, hang up and call the company directly. If the caller is uttering threats or demanding information or money, hang up! You can also do your part to stop the scammer by reporting it. Google the contact information for your country’s anti-fraud center. You can call them or submit a report online from their website.

Protecting Your Computer from Scams:

On a final note, it’s important for anyone with a computer or laptop to also protect themselves from malware and viruses. If you accidentally click on a bad email link, you have better protection with a secure computer.

  1. Make sure your operating system’s security features are activated and up to date.
  2. Then install a reputable anti-malware software program. This type of program will also offer protection when surfing the web, in the event you land on an infected website that is trying to access your personal information.

These types of malicious websites may also try to secretly install malware on your computer and direct you to fake websites. You could also be infecting other computers through email without your knowledge.

To ensure you don’t have malware currently on your computer, you can do a free scan using MalwareBytes.

Healthy Ways To Feed Your Kids Under Quarantine

Healthy Ways To Feed Your Kids

Although it is unfortunate that the Coronavirus is continuing to spread, the quarantine has provided us with an abundance of quality time to spend with our kids. With eLearning on the rise, it’s important to keep our kids’ brains moving. Doing so will help them to perform at their best given the challenges eLearning can present. It will also help them relax as they spend more time at home.

Healthy eating can help in many other ways as well. Since children are getting out less, their immune system is vulnerable. Under quarantine, we receive less Vitamin D, exercise less, and can even go a little stir-crazy. With nutrient-packed meals and snacks, your children can be a little more at ease in their new, but still temporary, full-time environment.

Furthermore, this is a great time to get creative in the kitchen. Tasty meals can help fade the negative stigma most children have surrounding nutritional eats, and can even go on to make them prefer fruits and vegetables rather than being resilient to them. Here’s what you can do:

Choose your foods and ingredients wisely. Although the scars of the Coronavirus outbreak can heighten your anxiety as a parent, be careful not to frivolously fill your shopping cart with just any food. Make a list, and limit the number of times you visit the grocery store to prevent bringing back the virus to your children.

When cooking at home, be intentional about meal prepping and portion control. It’s best to avoid highly processed snacks such as cookies, crackers, chips, and canned foods containing high-sodium and high-fructose corn syrup. Low-fat popcorn and nuts make great mid-day snacks; and for dinner, pairing pasta or rice with a protein, such as fish, can fill your little ones’ bellies for much longer.

Lastly, be aware of the “Pandemic Pantry,” the list of items shopped are stockpiling. These include canned foods, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and bottled water. Buying a water filter can help alleviate the purchasing of bottled water, and given the recent governmental policies, we need not fear being disconnected from your water supply while under quarantine – even if bills begin to pile up.

Taking the opportunity to show your kids healthy eating habits can benefit them now, and also influence them to continue a great diet post-quarantine. If you read the infographic below, you can gain more information on how to eat healthy under a quarantine. Take care, be safe, and enjoy your extra family time.

Healthy Eating Under Quarantine

Although it is unfortunate that the Coronavirus is continuing to spread, the quarantine has provided us with an abundance of quality time to spend with our kids. With eLearning on the rise, it’s important to keep our kids’ brains moving. Doing so will help them to perform at their best given the challenges eLearning can present. It will also help them relax as they spend more time at home.

Healthy eating can help in many other ways as well. Since children are getting out less, their immune system is vulnerable. Under quarantine, we receive less Vitamin D, exercise less, and can even go a little stir-crazy. With nutrient-packed meals and snacks, your children can be a little more at ease in their new, but still temporary, full-time environment.

Furthermore, this is a great time to get creative in the kitchen. Tasty meals can help fade the negative stigma most children have surrounding nutritional eats, and can even go on to make them prefer fruits and vegetables rather than being resilient to them. Here’s what you can do:

Choose your foods and ingredients wisely. Although the scars of the Coronavirus outbreak can heighten your anxiety as a parent, be careful not to frivolously fill your shopping cart with just any food. Make a list, and limit the number of times you visit the grocery store to prevent bringing back the virus to your children.

When cooking at home, be intentional about meal prepping and portion control. It’s best to avoid highly processed snacks such as cookies, crackers, chips, and canned foods containing high-sodium and high-fructose corn syrup. Low-fat popcorn and nuts make great mid-day snacks; and for dinner, pairing pasta or rice with a protein, such as fish, can fill your little ones’ bellies for much longer.

Lastly, be aware of the “Pandemic Pantry,” the list of items shopped are stockpiling. These include canned foods, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and bottled water. Buying a water filter can help alleviate the purchasing of bottled water, and given the recent governmental policies, we need not fear being disconnected from your water supply while under quarantine – even if bills begin to pile up.

Taking the opportunity to show your kids healthy eating habits can benefit them now, and also influence them to continue a great diet post-quarantine. If you read the infographic below, you can gain more information on how to eat healthy under a quarantine. Take care, be safe, and enjoy your extra family time.

Healthy Eating Under Quarantine

The Importance of Talking to Your Kids About Cybersecurity Right Now

talking to kids about cybersecurity

In today’s digital and always-online world, children are increasingly using the internet, and the trends predict that the numbers are only going to rise. The right time to talk to your kids and teens about cybersecurity is now. According to a 2015 study by Child Trends, 60% of children aged 3-17 used the internet at home, a steep climb from 11% in 1997.

Another study by The Center for Parenting Education found that kids and teens aged 8-28 spend about 44.5 hours in front of digital screens each week. Children are starting with the internet early, and it’s a parent’s job to add safeguards and filters to ensure a safe online environment.

However, parents can’t do it alone. The children need to be included in the discussion about how to stay safe online because, like it or not, the internet can be a dangerous place, and they can get caught in it. The web can help kids with their homework or research, and there’s no denying that it’s a game-changer for education. But there are bad actors and predators out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce at the most vulnerable members of society – children.

Here are the most critical topics you need to discuss with your children.

Passwords

If your kids are old enough to create and manage their accounts, talk to them about the importance of using strong passwords. The general rule is to use a combination of 8-12 upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, or 3-4 random words strung together (e.g., cakeshorseversuszeppelin). Never use the same password for everything, because if one account gets compromised, all accounts will follow suit. Also, refrain from using personal information like names, pet names, street names, and birthdays.

Using a password manager can help store and encrypt all passwords, so you don’t have to memorize them. Make sure that you write down the master password and keep it in a secure location. Please don’t take a picture of it or save it on your phone.

Sharing Personal Information

Talk to your children about sharing too much personal information online, such as photos, videos, names, birthdays, and other sensitive data. Educate them about the fact that anything that they share or post online will be on the internet forever, so private social media posts must remain closed. Talk to them about the criminals looking to steal their information for identity theft, and the predators who will try to manipulate and exploit them.

Sex offenders like to collect photos and videos of kids, while some are known to trick children into believing they’re the same age as them. Most are violent and will spew obscenities regardless, so let your child know that anytime he or she feels threatened or uncomfortable while online, to tell you immediately. Getting an identity theft monitoring service for you and your children can help mitigate the risks of identity theft.

Viruses and Malware

Threat actors embed malware everywhere – software, apps, videos, and even websites. These are like bombs waiting for a trigger, and in most cases, the trigger is the user. Talk to your child about the dangers of downloading files online, clicking links from social media posts or unsolicited email, and visiting infected sites.

These may contain malicious programs that will install itself and infect the device, stealing sensitive data, or corrupting the entire system. Phishing attacks via email target anyone, and if an attacker gets your child to give up the network password, all your devices will be in jeopardy.

Also, warn your child about illegal movie streaming websites that are loaded with malicious ad popups and viruses. Install security software on all your devices and always keep the antivirus and firewall activated. For additional security or if you are running a business on a network, learn more about what the best hardware firewall is for your needs.

Using Unsecure WiFi

Your kids need to know that public WiFi is not secure and hackers lie waiting for the most vulnerable devices to exploit. Even if an establishment like a mall or coffee shop has a WiFi password, the attacker can get it too if he’s there enjoying a latte.

For added safety and peace of mind when using free WiFi, get a trusted VPN (virtual private network) service and use it on all your devices. A VPN creates a tunnel that encrypts your traffic, hiding your real IP address and location from anyone snooping around. Even your ISP won’t know what you’re doing online.

In a Nutshell

The internet is everywhere, and reality dictates that your child will encounter a facet of the online world sooner rather than later. While the internet is a fantastic place where kids can learn anything under the sun, the parameters of having a borderless online world coupled with freedom and anonymity are what makes the situation a scary one for parents.

The fact is, the internet is an unsafe place despite all the good stuff about learning and discovery, which is why every parent should start educating their kids about cybersecurity at the earliest opportunity.

Daniel William is Content Director and a Cyber Security Director at IDStrong. His great passion is to maintain the safety of the organization’s online systems and networks.  

He knows that both individuals and businesses face the constant challenge of cyber threats. Identifying and preventing these attacks is a priority for Daniel.

In today’s digital and always-online world, children are increasingly using the internet, and the trends predict that the numbers are only going to rise. The right time to talk to your kids and teens about cybersecurity is now. According to a 2015 study by Child Trends, 60% of children aged 3-17 used the internet at home, a steep climb from 11% in 1997.

Another study by The Center for Parenting Education found that kids and teens aged 8-28 spend about 44.5 hours in front of digital screens each week. Children are starting with the internet early, and it’s a parent’s job to add safeguards and filters to ensure a safe online environment.

However, parents can’t do it alone. The children need to be included in the discussion about how to stay safe online because, like it or not, the internet can be a dangerous place, and they can get caught in it. The web can help kids with their homework or research, and there’s no denying that it’s a game-changer for education. But there are bad actors and predators out there, lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce at the most vulnerable members of society – children.

Here are the most critical topics you need to discuss with your children.

Passwords

If your kids are old enough to create and manage their accounts, talk to them about the importance of using strong passwords. The general rule is to use a combination of 8-12 upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols, or 3-4 random words strung together (e.g., cakeshorseversuszeppelin). Never use the same password for everything, because if one account gets compromised, all accounts will follow suit. Also, refrain from using personal information like names, pet names, street names, and birthdays.

Using a password manager can help store and encrypt all passwords, so you don’t have to memorize them. Make sure that you write down the master password and keep it in a secure location. Please don’t take a picture of it or save it on your phone.

Sharing Personal Information

Talk to your children about sharing too much personal information online, such as photos, videos, names, birthdays, and other sensitive data. Educate them about the fact that anything that they share or post online will be on the internet forever, so private social media posts must remain closed. Talk to them about the criminals looking to steal their information for identity theft, and the predators who will try to manipulate and exploit them.

Sex offenders like to collect photos and videos of kids, while some are known to trick children into believing they’re the same age as them. Most are violent and will spew obscenities regardless, so let your child know that anytime he or she feels threatened or uncomfortable while online, to tell you immediately. Getting an identity theft monitoring service for you and your children can help mitigate the risks of identity theft.

Viruses and Malware

Threat actors embed malware everywhere – software, apps, videos, and even websites. These are like bombs waiting for a trigger, and in most cases, the trigger is the user. Talk to your child about the dangers of downloading files online, clicking links from social media posts or unsolicited email, and visiting infected sites.

These may contain malicious programs that will install itself and infect the device, stealing sensitive data, or corrupting the entire system. Phishing attacks via email target anyone, and if an attacker gets your child to give up the network password, all your devices will be in jeopardy.

Also, warn your child about illegal movie streaming websites that are loaded with malicious ad popups and viruses. Install security software on all your devices and always keep the antivirus and firewall activated. For additional security or if you are running a business on a network, learn more about what the best hardware firewall is for your needs.

Using Unsecure WiFi

Your kids need to know that public WiFi is not secure and hackers lie waiting for the most vulnerable devices to exploit. Even if an establishment like a mall or coffee shop has a WiFi password, the attacker can get it too if he’s there enjoying a latte.

For added safety and peace of mind when using free WiFi, get a trusted VPN (virtual private network) service and use it on all your devices. A VPN creates a tunnel that encrypts your traffic, hiding your real IP address and location from anyone snooping around. Even your ISP won’t know what you’re doing online.

In a Nutshell

The internet is everywhere, and reality dictates that your child will encounter a facet of the online world sooner rather than later. While the internet is a fantastic place where kids can learn anything under the sun, the parameters of having a borderless online world coupled with freedom and anonymity are what makes the situation a scary one for parents.

The fact is, the internet is an unsafe place despite all the good stuff about learning and discovery, which is why every parent should start educating their kids about cybersecurity at the earliest opportunity.

Daniel William is Content Director and a Cyber Security Director at IDStrong. His great passion is to maintain the safety of the organization’s online systems and networks.  

He knows that both individuals and businesses face the constant challenge of cyber threats. Identifying and preventing these attacks is a priority for Daniel.

From Campus to Computer: How COVID-19 Has Influenced eLearning (Infographic)

The History and Future of Distance Learning

Now that the Coronavirus has been officially deemed a pandemic, public schools and universities around the world are shifting from campus to distance learning in efforts to prevent the virus’ spreading. To date, the virus has prompted school closures in at least 119 countries and has disrupted the education of more than 862 million students.

Even though online learning is a mostly-foreign concept to our kids, they seem to be loving it.

In fact, it’s led more students to become interested in obtaining their college degree through virtual means. Get this: 60% of eLearners believe that online classes help them improve their soft skills such as writing, paying closer attention to detail, perfecting their oral communication, engaging in teamwork, developing time management skills, and helping them with critical thinking/problem-solving.

Still, there are a bit of challenges that arise with learning online – primarily, technology access. 44% of students in low-income families don’t own a computer, and nearly 18% of school-age children don’t have at-home Internet access.

You’ll be happy to know that a computer may not be exactly essential to your child’s educational journey. Today, most eLearning programs are smartphone and tablet-compatible, providing students with a wider range of options to receive their new content. However, the 30 million school children relying on free/reduced lunches remain in a tough spot. 

As if the world weren’t fast-paced enough, COVID-19 is changing every corner of the world as we know it. The last thing we need during times like these is for our childrens’ education to be put at risk. Luckily, eLearning has a solution.

Check out the infographic below for the full scoop on the future of distance learning.

The History & Future Of Distance Learning

Now that the Coronavirus has been officially deemed a pandemic, public schools and universities around the world are shifting from campus to distance learning in efforts to prevent the virus’ spreading. To date, the virus has prompted school closures in at least 119 countries and has disrupted the education of more than 862 million students.

Even though online learning is a mostly-foreign concept to our kids, they seem to be loving it.

In fact, it’s led more students to become interested in obtaining their college degree through virtual means. Get this: 60% of eLearners believe that online classes help them improve their soft skills such as writing, paying closer attention to detail, perfecting their oral communication, engaging in teamwork, developing time management skills, and helping them with critical thinking/problem-solving.

Still, there are a bit of challenges that arise with learning online – primarily, technology access. 44% of students in low-income families don’t own a computer, and nearly 18% of school-age children don’t have at-home Internet access.

You’ll be happy to know that a computer may not be exactly essential to your child’s educational journey. Today, most eLearning programs are smartphone and tablet-compatible, providing students with a wider range of options to receive their new content. However, the 30 million school children relying on free/reduced lunches remain in a tough spot. 

As if the world weren’t fast-paced enough, COVID-19 is changing every corner of the world as we know it. The last thing we need during times like these is for our childrens’ education to be put at risk. Luckily, eLearning has a solution.

Check out the infographic below for the full scoop on the future of distance learning.

The History & Future Of Distance Learning