Episode 1: Six easy steps to protect your assets from cybercrime

You’ve spent your life protecting your hard-earned cash, and can spot an inflated bill or a bad deal from a mile off.

But the digital age has brought new challenges to the security of your money, it’s often near impossible to differentiate between cybercrime and legitimate e-commerce.

That’s because ‘phishing’ – making phone calls or sending emails or texts designed to look near-identical to those from trusted businesses, government departments and other sources – is a favourite ploy of cyber criminals.

Another popular trick is computer-support fraud, where the criminals claim to be representatives of a trusted tech company or telco, to obtain remote access to the victims’ PC.

Staying ahead of these types of cybercrimes takes vigilance.

Here are six simple ways to protect your personal and financial details in the digital age.

  1. Be wary of requests for info

Requests for personal or security information, especially those received via email or text message that purport to come from a trusted company such as your bank, should be treated with caution.

If in doubt, call the company on the phone number listed on its official site and check if the request came from it.

  1. Don’t post personal info on social media

Sharing personal details such as your full birth date or address could make you vulnerable to crime. Instead, keep your details vague and keep your privacy settings as tight as possible – choosing to post to ‘friends’ on Facebook rather than ‘public’ is because it prevents people you don’t know from seeing the information you post.

You can check your Facebook privacy settings by going to your own page, clicking on the ‘friends’ tab, then choosing ‘edit privacy’. Facebook provides more information on the privacy and security of your account here.

Take care not to reveal specific personal details in your online comments either – do you want everyone knowing your house is empty for 10 days?

And remember, no legitimate company will contact you via social media, so block any person who approaches you on Facebook or another platform purporting to be from your bank or similar. Likewise, it’s wise to block friend requests from people you don’t personally know.

  1. Never agree to remote PC access

Cyber criminals commonly phone or email in the guise of a trusted tech company or telco to tell you that your home computer has a virus or malware that they can remove if you give them remote access to your device.

Instead, once they have access to your computer, they often remove your own access and demand money to restore it, or infiltrate your online accounts.

Never give any phone-caller remote access to your PC, even if they say they’re from somewhere you trust.

Instead, ask for a reference number, then call the company they’re purporting to represent to check the veracity of their claims.

  1. Use your bank’s security features

For online and phone-banking users, there are usually multiple layers of security features on offer, not all of which are mandatory.

Although it can seem like a hassle to remember multiple passwords or codes, they make it far harder for a cybercriminal to access your funds, so ask your bank for help setting them up if you haven’t done so already.

  1. Avoid using public Wi-Fi

When you use a non-password protected public Wi-Fi network, your activities on unencrypted sites can be seen by others on the network.

Your use of encrypted sites can also be identified, although not seen. This means that if you log in to online banking on public Wi-Fi, others can see you’re logged in, though not what you’re doing on the site.

Other than having other people spying on or interfering with your browsing, a malevolent snooper could capture data that you transfer on unencrypted sites. It’s also possible for viruses to be passed between devices on the network.

Sometimes even a Wi-Fi hotspot itself can be a trap, set up by cyber criminals to access your device.

If you must use public Wi-Fi, stick to encrypted , ensure your virus protector is on, and avoid accessing sensitive online accounts such as those with your bank. You can identify an encrypted site by checking the URL for the letters ‘https’ or looking for the lock icon somewhere near your browser window.

Also, if you use a shared or public computer, make sure you log out of your accounts and delete your browsing history when you’re done.

To learn how to clear your browsing history, search Google for instructions specific to your browser, whether it be Chrome, Bing, Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer or another.

  1. Be informed

Register for the government’s free Stay Smart Online Alert Service. It lets you know about new digital scams as they emerge, as well as regularly offering helpful tips for staying safe online.

Finally, remember that no matter how much someone may pressure you to make a transaction – and scammers will try everything to convince you to do so in a hurry – it’s always best to keep hold of your money unless you’re certain you’re transferring it to a trusted person or company.

Once a transfer is enacted, particularly to an overseas destination, it’s much more difficult and can even be impossible for your bank to retrieve your cash.

Be sure to share this information with friends and relatives; Australians 65+ are the most impacted by scams, so start the conversation today.

Do you use all of these security precautions? Are there any others you would recommend?

St.George Bank is known for exceptional service, innovative, award-winning products and specialist financial advice for retail and business customers.

Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.