Every day, each of us that has an email account (everyone?!) is targeted by someone trying to commit financial fraud. It is an incessant tidal wave of attempts to get people’s personal details. Computers are well equipped with a variety of products and software to combat fraud and alert its owners to such attempts. Nevertheless, they cannot stop everything. There is an onus on the individual to do the right thing too. We take a look at how to protect your email account from fraudsters.
More than 85% of fraud is now carried out over the internet. The vast majority of such fraud will come via emails. The term experts use for such tactics is phishing. It is basically the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. Your email account is always vulnerable, and there is plenty you can do to keep it secure.
It may amaze you how many people have 1234 or password as their passwords for various devices. The last thing you want is to make a fraudster’s life easy. Likewise, using obvious words such as your pet’s name or the name of a loved one is not much better. Make your password obscure. Try to memorise it so that you do not have to have it written down. Many fraudsters will use software that uses common passwords to get into accounts. Ensure your password is unique, or close to unique at least. Use lower and upper case letters, numbers and at least one special symbol.
Two factor authentication, or multi-step authentication is an extra layer of security that secures your email account. This comes in to place even if a fraudster successfully obtains your email password. To use an example, it may exist in the form of a security token that is accessed through a smartphone. The system generates a temporary password that must be used within a set period of time, which may be as little as 30 seconds. Another method, and one that I use, is to have a code sent to your phone that you then enter. As owner of the phone, of course only you can see the code, which again has a limited lifespan.
Publicly shared computers tend to be less secure than a private computer with a single user. Keep that in mind when using such computers. Spyware can find it quite easy to get into accounts in public computer systems. As a separate step, you may wish to change your password periodically, to keep fraudsters at arm’s length. If you ever think you may have been the victim of a specific attack, that is the best time to do so. Be proactive and change your log in details.
The absolute no-no for all is not to click links in emails, unless you were expecting the email – say to change an email on a certain website. Then you know the email is genuine. To take paypal as an example – i get a lot of fraudulent emails pertaining to be from them. They always contain a link, telling you to click on it to save your account, which apparently has some problem with it. No reputable company will ever send an email with a link in it. Not a bank, eBay, Paypal or anyone similar. If they contact you because they require action from you, they will simply instruct you to go to the site and inform you where to go to resolve the matter. Likewise, if you receive an email and you are not sure who it is from, or what it is asking, delete it.