Online Fraud: Tips and best practices to secure your financial transactions

Updated: April 12, 2020 10:17 PM

There has been an increase in the use of online tools and apps which brings with it a heightened risk of Cyber fraud.

 Online fraud, COVID-19, Tips, best practices, cyber fraud, online tools and appsIn times like these, it is easy for cyber-criminals to entice and create panic among unsuspecting users.

By Pushan Mahapatra

Humanity is going through an unprecedented time of crisis. The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has restricted people to their homes around the globe. This has caused people to heavily rely on the digital/online world for a large part of their day. This dependence is not just for entertainment, shopping, social interactions but also for ‘work from home’ and important transactions like financial transactions. There is a sharp increase in the use of various kinds of online tools and apps online. This situation brings with it a heightened risk of Cyber fraud.

The panic that the pandemic and the social isolation is causing amongst many makes one vulnerable. This is the best bait for hackers or cyber criminals, and they might prey on these fears.  One might get emails and links garbed in Coronavirus related information/services especially banks, hospitals, insurers, and many others. Unsuspecting receivers may fall prey and click on embedded malicious links/URLs in those emails.

A 48-year-old man while working got an email about how he can secure his files while working from home and when he clicked on the link a malicious virus entered the system and lead to loss of all the data and files. This is not limited to one story or individual, cyber criminals are looking for opportunities in the present scenarios as now people are now more susceptible to such attacks. In the name of care funds for the needy or claiming insurance at such a critical time are some of the sensitive points cyber criminals are pinching at.

Cyber criminals & hackers are geared up and luring us during our anxiety by sending phishing emails to break into our systems. As phishing remains the most preferred choice of cyber criminals, you need to be extra cautious while dealing with such unsolicited mails in the current global crisis by taking precautions and not let fear and confusion take over us. The hackers are even getting creative during this time by developing unsuspecting apps to malicious links which looks like they are providing information about COVID-19 but in real are the malicious link that hacks the devices and steal data.

Here are a few tips which can help you detect such emails:

Check if the sender’s email address looks different from their display name – Look out for the email addresses whenever you suspect, or email have written anything which forces you to take an urgent action.

Check if the email contains an attachment and urges you to download the files for more details – This is the most common way to scam people, creating content in the email which makes you to download files. Avoid such links.

Check if the email contains unknown URLs – Hackers create duplicate of genuine sites to capture your sensitive personal information and the fake URLs are so similar that it become difficult to differentiate. Do check URLs before clicking on any.

Check if the language in the mail is unprofessional or is filled with grammatical errors – Generally, the professional email is written by well versed content writers without any grammatical errors. If you find any spelling mistakes, punctuations, and grammar errors that is most likely by the inexperienced scammers or fraudsters.

Check if they are asking for personal information – Organizations never ask for sharing customer personal information randomly via email or bank credit/debit card details via messages. Such mails and messages should be treated as red flags.

Check if they have deadline – A hacker can send an email about renewing an expiring insurance policy or with limited validity discount of deals. Such email should be avoided.

Here are a few best practices to help you from getting victimized:

  • Hover your mouse over a link to know if it is genuine. Don’t click if it looks suspicious
  • Never respond to any email that asks for personal information/sensitive personal information
  • Be careful of any suspicious/phishing email for policy renewals/premium payment
  • Be wary of email from popular health organizations like WHO. Visit their official website for latest advice
  • Don’t panic in case of warning/threatening email. Read carefully and then act.
  • Use different passwords for different sites
  • Encrypt special files and data
  • Don’t give personal information into the pop-ups
  • Avoid opening unexpected attachments
  • Keep your system updated with patches and AntiVirus
  • In the time of this disastrous outbreak, it becomes easy for cyber criminals to entice and create panic among unsuspecting users by inviting them to click links and attachments via emails and messages. All you need is awareness and alertness while dealing with such emails to avoid cyber-attacks/frauds.

Stay indoors, stay safe!

(The author is MD and CEO, SBI General Insurance: Views expresses are personal)

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