To help bring our readers more of the latest news to stay safe, we’ve reached out to security experts focused on digital safety and identity theft. EZShield and IdentityForce joined forces to create Sontiq to focus on maximizing digital protection.
And online safety during this time is becoming more pertinent than ever. The Coronavirus pandemic has led to more of our day-to-day activities happening online security is key. Sontiq Chief Marketing Officer, Donna Parent, along with Chief Information Security Officer Steve Turner, shared their thoughts in a recent Q & A.
As families spend more time online, what scams should people be most aware of?
Parent: There are a number of heightened social scams happening too right now. Just as we are all spending more time online, so too, are the scammers. These bad actors will work to take advantage of social networking sites by pretending to be someone you already know and may even send messages to you about cures for COVID-19. Or, perhaps they will start fundraising for what seems to be a “good cause,” or you might even see them send you “deals” on items like Clorox wipes, toilet papers, or facial masks. Be vigilant and ensure that you contact this friend outside of the social network to confirm your suspicions!
There’s also a newer scam that involves pets or adoption of pets. This is when the scammer tries to tell you that you have to pay extra money for a crate or insurance to have your pet shipped because of the pandemic. Additionally, the fraudster may ask for payment in the forms of gift cards – something that was not agreed to initially. Consider these as more red flags for a fraudster who does not have the pet they are attempting to sell to you and your family.
What tips do you have for families downloading more apps and shopping online? How do they know what they’re doing is safe?
Parent: Let’s start with families downloading more apps. You want to avoid third-party apps, which often bypass security measures. You also want to look at app reviews and the date the app was released – ensure it makes sense. For example, if you are downloading a banking app and the publish date is a few months ago, look for an “updated on” date to ensure you are downloading the correct app. Also, see if there are spelling and grammatical errors, another key indicator of a scam. And, finally, remember if the offer or promotional around the app is “too good to be true,” stay away!
When online shopping, especially from your mobile device, before you make a purchase through an ad on Instagram or Facebook, or even downloading a coupon, do this one thing first! Perform an Internet search about the ad you received for words like “complaint” or “reviews” and you may uncover a scam related to the promotional offer. It’s worth your search time.
Another tip around your mobile shopping is to only use shopping apps that you download from a trusted source – including the Amazon App Store, Android Market, and Apple App Store. Also, carefully review the access permissions of each app on your device. For instance, do you really need to give a shopping app access to your list of contacts? Probably not.
And, finally, consider identity theft protection with a mobile security app that performs comprehensive mobile device scanning for rogue applications, spyware, unsecured Wi-Fi connections and fake networks, to further enhance your safety when shopping online. These make shopping apps on your phones and tablets much safer.
Encourage your family to use strong passwords, keep their devices locked, ignore strange or “too good to be true” emails, and keep a watchful eye on your credit card statements.
What tips do you have for families relying on online classrooms? We’ve all heard about inappropriate comments and images. How can we avoid these?
Parent: We’ve seen more of this with the popularity of online conference tools being used for public and educational consumption, as “Zoom-bombings” have opened up a gateway to hackers. However, as long as educators are putting passwords in place for these meetings, or making the links to these meetings impossible to guess, while also being able to mute participants, the risk of inappropriate comments or unwanted participants is greatly reduced.
Let’s talk about basic online security. What should everyone do regularly to protect themselves online?
- Use a different password for every account and use a password manager to keep track of them.
- Keep the operating system and applications up to date. Install patches as they become available.
- Install anti-virus and anti-ransomware software. Keep it up to date.
Be very skeptical of emails that offer free gifts, ask for personal information or threaten to suspend your account.
How are people being targeted online?
Turner: It is so cheap and easy to launch a scam campaign that people are not being “targeted” as such. Once a bad guy has your email address, you are added to one or more lists which are sold cheaply to multiple bad guys.
How are people putting themselves in danger online without realizing? What are some common actions that could lead to being scammed?
Turner: Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Failing to keep their software up to date.
- Using the same password in multiple accounts or using a simple or common password.
- Reacting too quickly to a scam in an email without checking to see if it really came from the company it claims to come from.
- Being too trusting, too fearful, or too greedy.
Let’s talk about what businesses need to watch out for. How do you think digital conferencing has changed since the pandemic? What security issues should businesses and employees be on the lookout for?
Turner: Digital conferencing if available from more free sources than before (Facebook and Google most recently)
Digital conferencing is being used by people who are not familiar with it. They ignore security options such as password-protecting a conference, which allows others to join uninvited.
What haven’t we asked about that’s important? And what’s the most important takeaway?
Parent: Keep in mind, that while online activities rise, so does cyberbullying, predator threats, and unsafe use of social media and gaming apps.
Popular social media applications, like TikTok and Facebook, require more parental involvement at the peak of COVID-19. Obviously, we are now seeing an exponential increase in these social media apps. Not to mention the predator nature of what’s going on, but additionally, if one of these apps were to expose any personal information of its users through a data breach, a child’s identity may end up for sale on the Dark Web – putting them at risk for synthetic identity theft.
In addition to being vigilant about scams targeting your immediate family, also keep in mind that fraudsters are still very much interested in seniors. Scammers are targeting the elderly with phone call scams claiming to be fake charities, health organizations offering vaccines, or house cleaning services to help sanitize against the coronavirus.
Remind your loved ones that they should never give our personal, financial, or medical information over the phone. Legitimate government agencies are not calling individuals to “reserve” a COVID-19 vaccine, and they are not offering a check or direct transfer of money as a fiscal stimulus.