Written by Alden Zhang, Public Safety Assistant
From the Irvine Police Department, Crime Prevention Unit
February is known as the month of love and nowadays we all love to do things online. The internet has made it more convenient for us to find that special someone, bank online, connect with people from around the world, shop, and much more. But it has also made it convenient for criminals to victimize unsuspecting people. Here are some helpful tips to protect you in the digital world from cyber criminals:
- Make sure your anti-virus, security software, antispyware, computer, and phone updates are installed regularly and kept up to date. Many of these updates are enhanced features that help combat cybercrimes.
- Use a unique and secure password or passphrase that only you know for each account. Do not use the same password, share your password with anyone, or write it down anywhere.
- Use a secure internet connection (no free Wi-Fi) when entering in your personal information, making any online purchases or entering user name and password.
- Only use secure websites that are encrypted that begin with https when doing online shopping or banking. They will have https or shttp in the URL and a “lock icon” at the top or bottom of your browser window. You can click on this icon to display information about the website and help you to verify that it’s legitimate.
- Do not reply to unfamiliar emails, calls, or texts. Especially do not click on any unfamiliar links or attached documents.
- Be cautious of external links sent by texts or emails. You can call the number on the back of your credit card or independently look up the contact number from a safe website to verify any emails or texts from your bank, utility companies, government agencies or other creditors requesting payments or personal information.
- Cyber criminals will often create a false sense of urgency to encourage you to act fast (e.g., fraudulent bank fraud alert, social security breach, immediate action required emails/text). Remember to always confirm situations even if it seems urgent. Criminals may even impersonate a friend or loved one to play on your emotions and incite your help in an emergency.
- Do not open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and be wary of forwarded attachments from people you do know. They could accidentally forward you an email containing a virus. Carelessly downloading email attachments can be dangerous as some attachments may be able to avoid detection of anti-virus software.
- Be cautious of online scams and remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- For more information on common scams and crimes, Visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
For more information on crime prevention and personal safety, please visit CrimePrevention.IrvinePD.org.