According to the 2019 Identity Fraud Study from Javelin Strategy & Research, out-of-pocket fraud costs to victims of identity theft more than doubled from 2016 to 2018 to $1.7 billion. Scammers and hackers will go to great lengths to trap you and steal your information. Take a look at these two tips below for easy ways to ensure your safety against hackers:

Cyber Tip #1: Know Who’s Calling – Don’t Answer the Phone Unless You Recognize the Number

Ask most security experts and they’ll tell you that their number one rule for phone calls is, unless the caller is a saved contact in your phone, don’t answer. Hackers use many tricks to attempt to record your voice or lure you to answer certain questions just through a phone call.

Unkown Caller

Here is an Example:

Let’s say you receive a call from a person claiming they are with your bank and they have blocked two fraudulent seeming charges in a different city made to your ATM card. The person confirms this by reading to you that last four digits of your card.

You double check the number and indeed it is an 800-number that matches the number your bank uses.

The “representative from your bank” proceeds to assure you they will cancel your old card and send a new one. They read you your home address to confirm where they will be sending your card and then proceed to tell you they will need you to verify a few pieces of information. They ask you to verify your mother’s maiden name (which your bank has asked for in the past), to verify the three digit security code on the bank of your card, and lastly for your current PIN number – so that they could apply the same PIN to the new card being mailed out.

While this may cause red flags for some people, you’d be surprised at how many people are willing to just give this information out over the phone. But don’t fall for it!

“Your bank or other financial institution won’t ask you to confirm these credentials in an email or by an unsolicited phone call,” says global security evangelist Tony Anscombe at ESET, a technology security company. “When in doubt, contact your bank to see if it was really them. Chances are it wasn’t.”

Allow unknown callers to leave a message and you decide if you want or need to call them back. Also be sure to look up the number online for any institution claiming to have called you and call that number back.

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Cyber Tip #2: Google Yourself – Know What Others Could Know About You From Google and Consider How it Can Be Used Against You

If you aren’t among the curious few who already do this regularly, google your name every now and then to see what the world knows about you. You may be surprised at the amount of information that is there. Don’t just look at the first page of search results. Take the time to look through several pages to see what is out there.

Also, take the time to google your name along with a keyword. For example,  search for your name and your employer or school and see the list of things that you either have participated/been identified in, or which someone else has shared about you.

Why is this important? Hackers use this information to figure out things about you. This way, they can use targeted attacks to gain access to your personal information.

Here is an Example:

Let’s say you were listed as an employee at Microsoft on your LinkedIn profile. With very little research, a hacker can figure out when the Microsoft benefits open enrollment occurs. With that information, they may target you during the company’s open enrollment time through phone calls, emails, etc. asking you to log into seemingly harmless sites. If you are not careful, you may enter the wrong site and submit your secure credentials.

By using these tips and remaining alert, you can greatly reduce your chances of falling victim to hackers and scammers.

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(From the editor: This article was originally published on Small Business Solutions)