Identity theft: Seven tips to defeat online fraudsters

  • TECH
  • Sunday, 31 Dec 2023

Cybercriminals are constantly coming up with new scams. That means it is all the more important to protect yourself against fraudsters. — Photo: Franziska Gabbert/dpa

BERLIN: It's not possible to completely prevent personal and sensitive data from falling into the hands of cybercriminals. In the event of a data leak due to a hacker attack, often the only thing left for you to do is change affected passwords as quickly as possible.

However, there's a number of measures you can put in place beforehand, to protect your data from phishing attacks and other scams.

Here are seven tips from the European Consumer Centre:

  1. Pass on as little data as possible and always consider what sensitive information is really needed when using an online service. Be suspicious.
  2. Don't fall for phishing or smishing messages, attempts to get you to reveal personal data via email or text. Using all sorts of tricks such as sending out fictitious deadlines or threats to block your account, scammers seek to lure you to websites where they can steal your sensitive data such as contact information, credit card numbers or passwords.
  3. Instead of clicking in dubious messages that claim to come from legitimate companies, enter the address of the alleged sender manually, log in, and check your customer account to see if there any messages for you there. Alternatively, you can call the supposed sender on their official number and ask them if they’ve sent you a message.
  4. If you get an urgent request from a friend or relative via social media, often connected with a hair-raising or sad story, it's very likely that that person's account has been hacked. So don't react, click on anything or transfer money. Instead contact your friend or relative using another method.
  5. If possible, don't pass on copies, photos or scans of your identification documents. If this becomes unavoidable at some point, you should carefully black out all information that isn't required or that's irrelevant, such as your ID number and signature. You can also add a watermark to the image file using a free image editor such as Gimp. It allows you to add a text band over the image stating the purpose of the copy, the recipient, and the date. The text should also state that the image is a copy.
  6. Each online service or account requires a strong, individual password. The easiest way to manage your passwords is a password manager program. Wherever possible, activate two-factor authentication (2FA).
  7. In the interests of security, software always needs to be kept updated. That applies to operating systems, programs as well as apps. If updates are available, don't hesitate to install them. Otherwise, possible security gaps remain open to external attacks.

If you notice suspicious movements in one of your accounts, act quickly to prevent further damage. You should report it to the police and inform your bank to block any pending debits.

You should also object to unauthorised credit card payments to receive your money back. If necessary, have accounts or payment cards blocked or apply for a new ID card. – dpa

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