As internet usage increases so do opportunities for cybercriminals

As access to financial services becomes more technology driven, scammers and fraudsters are evolving just as quickly in order to take advantage of the unwary or uninformed consumer.

With an estimated impact of $6 trillion by 2021 (, cybercrime might not only be financially devastating, it also could devastate a consumer’s identity.

Following are some of the leading cybercrime and cyber-scam tools used by scammers and fraudsters:

Malware: This is internet downloads containing harmful viruses. Devices might present malware by the disappearance of files or files not opening properly. Files also could contain scrambled, humorous or irritating screen messages.

Phishing: When consumers are tricked by fraudsters who appear to be from legitimate organizations or government agencies (via email and/or telephone) into sharing personal information such as Social Security and financial institution accounts numbers, PINs and answers to commonly used security questions, that might be later used to take advantage of the consumer.

Pharming: A virus or malicious program secretly planted in a personal device that hijacks the Web browser. Pharmers then request entering a web address, which is a fake copy of a legitimate site where any personal information provided is then stolen and fraudulently used.

Tech support scams: Fraudsters claiming to work for a well-known technology company claim viruses have been detected on a personal device. The fake tech alleges they can remotely remove the virus for a fee.

Unwanted software: Programs downloaded (spyware and adware) — often unknowingly — causing processing issues for personal devices. Sometimes unwanted software is hidden along with a program that a user intended to download.

Ransomware: Malicious software, or malware, designed to deny a user’s access to a computer system, device or data until a ransom is paid with no guarantee the files will be recovered. It is typically spread through phishing emails or by unknowingly visiting an infected website. Recovery can be difficult requiring a reputable data recovery specialist.

To thwart scammers and fraudsters and prevent fraud consider the following tips:

• Make an investment in reputable anti-virus software, spam filter, anti-spyware (monitoring software) and/or a firewall program offering regular updates. Purchase software directly from the source company.

• Never download programs or click on links from unknown websites, email senders or pop-ups. Viruses often are embedded in emails and are activated once the email is opened or through an attached link.

• Supervise children when they’re surfing the Internet and consider implementing “parental controls” to block access to undesired sites.

• Increase the number of days files are kept in browser history to 45. This provides more time to identify a harmful site.

• If contacted unexpectedly by someone claiming to be a victim of fraud or from tech support, verify the person’s identity and employment before providing any personal information.

• Never allow remote access to a device from an unknown person unless certain they represent a legitimate company.

• Never share personal information with an unknown person. Do not disclose sensitive financial information such as passwords, credit card numbers, PINs or bank/credit union account numbers.

• Make Internet or phone purchases using a single card specifically for these purchases, thereby limiting personal exposure.

• Report phishing activity regardless of being a victim or not to the organization the phisher was impersonating.

Victims of fraud should contact their local police department or contact a financial institution representative for assistance.