Jeffrey Tinsley is Founder & CEO of MyLife.com, which helps individuals protect themselves online.
One in every three Americans suffers from an online attack each year, with a rate of about one attack every 39 seconds. If this startles you, it should. Cyberattacks are a real problem in today's digitized world. From botnets infecting computers with malicious software to scammers sending fraudulent emails to acquire someone's financial information, these attacks happen every day.
Cybercrime is such a massive threat because it endangers private information and results in scams, fraud, and emotional trauma. If you've ever been a victim of an online attack, you know it will likely take time for you to shake the feelings of vulnerability and unease caused by a scam, and even longer for you to begin trusting the Internet again. But there are things you can — and should — do if you've ever been the target of a scammer.
The steps outlined below will help to mitigate damage, prevent future attacks, and encourage a quicker recovery.
You should report the incident the instant you sense any red flags. Many victims of online attacks don't report scams because they either don't know where to file a report, they feel it's pointless, or they're embarrassed. On a personal and societal level, however, reporting these incidents is important.
Scam reports can help inform federal agencies of the prominence, behavior, and impact of online attacks so that they can better target the attackers. Start with your local police first, especially if you need to file an insurance claim. Then, proceed to contact any financial institutions or card issuers about the information that was compromised.
Reporting an online attack is crucial for personal and national security as it will provide you with essential documentation and resources for any claims you may make; it also plays a role in expanding existing data pertaining to online attacks necessary for preventative tactics and countermeasures to be put in place.
Once you've reported your incident, you should evaluate your online security and make some adjustments. If you've experienced a cyberattack of some sort, it's likely it could happen again.
Changing your passwords to be completely unique and complex is the first logical step to take. Make sure to keep these updated passwords somewhere safe so you remember what you've changed them to so you aren't constantly updating them every time you need to log into one of your accounts. And if one of your devices has been compromised, contact a technician to clean it.
Building off your assessment of your online security, you're also going to need to change the way you interact online to prevent similar attacks from happening again.
Familiarize yourself with the following attacks so you can be on the lookout for red flags. If you're an active online dater, understand the nuances of romance scams. If you're an avid email-checker who makes sure to look through every new email you receive, research phishing scams. If you visit a lot of websites throughout the day, make sure you know about drive-by attacks. And these are just the tip of the iceberg. While you might not be able to learn every single type of scam, the more you know, the more protected you will be.
But that's not the only thing you can do. You should also be researching the names of individuals before you engage with them. This may sound like an overwhelming task, but there are resources out there that can help. MyLife.com, for example, can help you decide if someone is trustworthy by showing you their Reputation Profile and Reputation Score.
These measures can further reduce the chances that you will be the victim of a future attack.
Online attacks can be traumatizing and the damage caused by cybercriminals can be paralyzing. Recognizing that online attacks can happen to anyone can help victims feel that they aren't alone.
There are resources available to guide you through the process of reporting and recovery. The AARP Fraud Watch Network, for example, has a hotline you can call to receive some guidance from volunteers. Continue to be proactive and thorough in your efforts to prevent online attacks. Sharing your insight with others can also help strengthen their online security and hold you accountable for doing the same. Remember that anyone can become a victim of an online attack, so there is no reason to feel guilty or embarrassed by your situation. Instead, use your experience to inform your Internet usage and educate your loved ones.
Suffering an online attack can be a hefty burden to bear, but you do not have to deal with the trauma alone.
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