How To Protect Yourself Online

There are no hold-ups in online crime. No mask over the face, no weapons. Often, there is also no one to hold accountable. “People who commit online fraud remain anonymous,” says Kurt Shouse, the information and cyber security officer at Florence Bank.

Cybercrime is escalating every year; it cost the world $600 billion in 2017.* Kurt says people must stay informed and take steps to prevent an online attack.

In order to prevent cybercrime, Kurt suggests the following:

  • Keep antivirus software and other technology up to date.

  • Never give out your user names or passwords to your online accounts.

  • Back up the files on your computer.

  • Always check the URLs in your browser to be sure you are on the site you intended.

“Cybersecurity has to be top-of-mind for everybody,” says Kurt, who is charged with overseeing cybersecurity for the bank and its customers. “If you’re online, you’re susceptible to some type of fraud, regardless if you’re 10 or 90. Cybercrime is not a hobby. It’s a multi-billion-dollar business.”

Tugging at the heartstrings

Many email scams take advantage of peoples’ vulnerabilities. Be wary when you receive an email from someone claiming to be a victim of a wide-spread, well-known tragedy—such as the Boston Marathon bombing or a mass shooting.

Kurt says some scammers are creating fundraising sites; they send emails out to millions, claiming to have been affected and are seeking support through donations. “Often, they have nothing to do with the cause,” he says

To combat this scam, develop your skepticism. Google search the cause to verify its legitimacy. Do not give out your credit card number in an email—or over the phone to a charity you haven’t vetted. If any doubt exists, delete the communication and do not respond. Make a donation to an organization you know and trust by contacting them directly.

“Your grandson is in jail.”

One online—and phone scam—that targets seniors is committed by people who claim to have information about someone in your family. “They might tell you your grandson is in jail and that you need to send money as soon as possible to get him out. They may even have his name,” Kurt says.

They may ask for your banking account or credit card information, or they may ask for your social security number. Kurt says, “Do not offer this information. Hang up or delete the email.”

Then call your grandson directly to make sure he’s ok!

Phishing out of water

There are hundreds of different phishing scams. A phishing email in particular can ransack your computer once you open an attachment or take any kind of action. More often than not, if you’re a victim of one of these scams, your computer will be infected with a virus that is disabling.

Additionally, another immobilizing scam occurs when a fraudster inserts a device into your files that monitors your online activity and keystrokes. This scam is dangerous because over time your frequently visited sites will become apparent along with your user names and passwords.

Kurt recommends that your spam filter is always turned on, and to avoid all emails from individuals or organizations you do not know. He says to ask yourself these questions: “Are you expecting the email? How does the body of the email look? Does it look odd? Are there spelling mistakes?”

When in doubt, delete it out.

Decoy websites

Kurt says there are scams that will divert you to a site that looks exactly like your own bank’s site. It will prompt you to enter your user name and password and when you do, the scammer will have access to your account information and access to your funds. He recommends never entering your bank’s website via a Google search on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

“These sites are created to mirror the real site,” Kurt says.

To make sure you are on your own banking site, “Look in the browser and make sure the URL is the correct one for your bank, ‘,’ for instance. Make sure the URL is not random, such as a string of numbers,” Kurt says.

Gaming scams

Cyberattacks on children occur all the time when they are playing games on a parent’s phone or tablet. “The biggest misconception people hold is that they are safe on their phones,” Kurt says. “You have to be very careful when you are downloading apps.”

Only download apps from the App store on your device or from the site of the product manufacturer. “Fraudsters are building fake apps that might look like a bank app. Once you enter your information, they gain access.

“Games contain some of the biggest scams out there,” Kurt added.

He reiterates, “When you’re online, you have to be very careful. Get your technical equipment up to date, and you’ll be okay.”

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is offered every October as a partnership between government entities and industry to inform Americans about online scams so they can learn how to prevent them.