Computers, as crucial as they are for various aspects of our lives, constantly face threats from hackers and malware. According to Norton, cybercrime rates have increased by 55% in the past year, and the global cost of cybercrime is expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. Hackers and malware scammers use various techniques to steal your personal information, money, or data, or to damage your device or network. Some of the most common methods include:
Phishing: Phishing is when scammers send fake emails, texts, or calls that pretend to be from a legitimate company, organization, or person, and ask you to click on a link, open an attachment, or provide sensitive information. The link or attachment may contain malware that infects your computer, or the information may be used to access your accounts or identity. According to the FTC, Americans lost over $330 million to text scams in 2022.
Robocalls: Robocalls are automated phone calls that use a recorded voice to offer you a product, service, or deal, or to threaten you with legal action, fines, or arrest. Some robocalls may use artificial intelligence to sound more natural and respond to your questions. Robocalls may try to trick you into giving your credit card number, bank account information, or personal details, or to press a button that charges you a fee or connects you to a live scammer. The FTC reported that people lost $8.8 billion to robocall scams in 2023.
Impersonators: Impersonators are scammers who pretend to be someone you know or trust, such as a friend, relative, employer, government official, or company representative. They may contact you by phone, email, social media, or online platforms, and ask you for money, personal information, or access to your computer. For instance, they may feign being in an emergency, offering job positions, requiring technical support, or proffering refunds or rewards. In 2022, the FTC received over 500,000 complaints of impersonation scams.
To shield yourself and your computer from hackers and malware scams, heed these recommendations:
- Use antivirus software and update it regularly: Antivirus software can help you detect and remove malware from your computer, and prevent it from spreading to other devices or networks. You should choose a reputable antivirus program and keep it updated with the latest security patches and definitions.
- Don’t click on suspicious links or attachments: You should never click on links or open attachments from unknown or unexpected sources, or from messages that look suspicious or too good to be true. You should also check the sender’s email address, the URL of the link, and the file name of the attachment for any signs of spoofing or tampering. If you are not sure, you can contact the sender directly or use a different method to verify the message.
- Don’t give out your personal information or money: You should never give out your personal information or money to anyone who contacts you unsolicited, or who claims to be someone you know or trust without verifying their identity. You should also never share your passwords, PINs, or verification codes with anyone, or allow anyone to remotely access your computer. If you receive a request for money or information, you can hang up, delete the message, or report it to the appropriate authorities.
- Use strong passwords and two-factor authentication: You should use strong passwords that are long, complex, and unique for each of your accounts, and change them regularly. You should also use two-factor authentication, which adds an extra layer of security by requiring a code or a device to log in to your account. You can use a password manager or a secure app to store and generate your passwords and codes.
- Backup your data: You should backup your data regularly to an external hard drive or a cloud service, so that you can restore it in case of a malware attack, a ransomware demand, or a data breach. You should also encrypt your data and use a secure connection when transferring or accessing it online.
If you think your computer has been hacked or infected by malware, you should take immediate action to limit the damage and recover your system. You should disconnect your computer from the internet and other devices, scan it with antivirus software, change your passwords, and contact your bank, credit card company, or other service providers to alert them of any fraudulent activity. You should also report the incident to the FTC, the FBI, or your local law enforcement agency.
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