How to Lower Your Risk of Experiencing a Cyberattack

August 1, 2023

Cybercrime can be a minor hassle or it can have subsequent repercussions in your life.  Just ask James and Diana, the California couple who lost $68,000 when criminals created a fraudulent bank account in Diana's name, then used it to transfer out all the funds from the couple's real account.

Some scammers combine hacking with trickery, such as social engineering. A senior citizen in Akron, Ohio, lost $40,000 when cybercriminals took control of her computer and made it look like her account had been erroneously credited, then convinced her to wire them the money.

And these are just two examples of the personal toll cybercrime has had on individuals. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported more than $10 billion in losses globally in 2022, nearly four times the $2.7 billion reported in 2008. So the threat is only becoming more real.

In order to defend yourself, you first need to understand what you're up against.

How They Do It

According to the FBI, the most common Internet crime is phishing, a technique that uses email to trick recipients into downloading software that criminals then use to steal bank information or passwords, or even take over the computer.

But the costliest type of cybercrime is investment fraud, which cost victims $3.3 billion in 2022. For instance, the FBI recorded reports of criminals hacking social media accounts to reach the account holder's friends with fraudulent investment opportunities.

A fast-growing type of online fraud you should know about is business email compromise. In this scam, the criminal impersonates a business associate or company in an email, often to request payment. In some reported scams, the criminal exploited knowledge of a transaction the victim was already involved in, like a home sale, to send a payment request that would not be questioned.

What You Can Do to Stay Safe

1. Know What to Look For

You can avoid many cyberattacks by recognizing these common scenarios:

·       Phishing. Emails containing phishing links may present themselves as messages from legitimate companies, even your bank. But small inconsistencies may give them away. The logo may not look right. Or there may be spelling or grammatical errors. Or the email address doesn't match the brand. As soon as you detect something that does not look right, make sure to not open any attachments from such emails.

·       Business email compromise. Even if you think an email is coming from someone you should be sending money to—like the seller in a transaction—watch for warning signs, like pressure to send the payment urgently. Give special scrutiny to any request to wire money. Also, instructions to pay with gift cards is a dead giveaway.

·       Bank account fraud. If someone is draining money from your bank account, for example by transferring money to a fraudulent account as with James and Diana, these transactions will show up on your online account. Reviewing your transactions regularly is an easy first step. You may also want to sign up to receive text or email transaction alerts.

2. Up Your Security Game

Security experts recommend all computer and smartphone users take these measures to keep their accounts safe:

·       Password management. Use a different password for every account, and choose a password that is long and complex. A good way to make this easier and more secure is to use password management software.

·       Multi-factor authentication. Most financial services now offer an optional second layer of security on top of your password. For instance, you may opt to receive a text or email with a one-time code to enter before you can access your account. Or you may be able to use biometric data, like your fingerprint or facial recognition, in addition to your password.

·       Security software. Your computer operating system probably already includes protection tools to prevent viruses or other cyberthreats. But you may need to enable them. You can also download free protection programs from the Web, or purchase one.

What to Do if You Suspect Hacking

It's a terrible feeling: You clicked that link, only to realize too late that the email looked "phishy." Or you sent a payment to someone you now realize might not have been who they said they were.

Here are some steps you can take to head off disaster:

·       Try to contain any damage. Change your password, and—if you have security software on your computer—run a scan.

·       Contact your financial institution. If you fear a particular financial account was targeted, call that company to inform them of your suspicion and find out your options. You may be able to freeze your account to prevent any unauthorized withdrawals or transfers. If any accounts were already compromised, your financial institution can help you close them or take other necessary measures.

·       Contact authorities. If you did lose money, file a report with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They may be able to help you recover your funds or prevent further losses.

Be cautious, not paranoid

Although this all sounds quite scary, the fact is that most cybercrime is preventable with good security practices. Your bank is already watching out for you on their end, with crime prevention technology and tactics. Now that you know more about best security practices, you can feel confident that you and your bank are working together to keep your savings secure.

For more on how to protect your money and information, contact a City National Private specialist for tools and resources or visit our Security Center.

Please note: The content in this article comes from individual opinions and experiences. The content should not be taken as advice coming from City National Bank of Florida. City National Bank of Florida does not offer tax, legal or accounting advice.


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