It’s time to take action, safeguard devices and protect identities

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National Cyber Security Awareness Month  tips for consumers

WASHINGTON — In an increasingly technology-oriented world, cybercrime has become all too common for both consumers and businesses. Internet crime takes many forms and includes everything from large-scale data breaches to consumer issues like identity theft and cyberstalking to widespread scams and ransomware. In the third week of National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and their industry, government and nonprofit partners are highlighting the different types of online crime and how people and businesses can better protect themselves.

Fight against fraud

“As cybercriminals sharpen their hacking skills, we must take stronger precautions to protect our information and all of our connected devices,” said Michael Kaiser, executive director of NCSA. “There are simple things everyone can do to better safeguard their key accounts, devices and apps, like keeping software up to date, turning on strong authentication and exercising extreme caution when reading messages containing links or requests for information.”

Tech support scams make up one of the most common forms of cybercrime, and many companies providing technology products and services find themselves targeted by cybercriminals. Microsoft’s new survey and infographic on these crimes share the following eye-opening findings:

  • One in five consumers surveyed admitted to continuing a potential fraudulent interaction when experiencing a tech support scam (e.g., downloaded software, visited a scam website, gave a fraudster remote access to their device or provided credit card information or other form of payment).
  • Nearly 1 in 10 have lost money to a tech support scam.
  • Of those who had continued with a fraudulent interaction, 17 percent were older than 55 and 34 percent were between the ages of 36 and 54.
  • Fifty percent of those who continued the interaction were millennials (ages 18-34).
Frequent cyber threats and risks

“Tech support scams are on the rise around the world and demand urgent attention from law enforcement, private industry and individual consumers,” said Courtney Gregoire, senior attorney at Microsoft’s Digital Crimes Unit. “According to a recent survey from Microsoft, two out three people have experienced a tech support scam in the past year, with many falling victim and placing their computers and personal information at risk.1 Our aim is to make a safer digital experience for everyone, and we are excited to partner with the National Cybersecurity Alliance to help educate people on how to identify, avoid, and report these kind of scams.”

Microsoft’s blog post on the survey provides valuable information and tips for spotting and fighting scams.

In addition to the rise in tech support-related and other scams, identity theft is a key concern for many – in fact, a 2016 NCSA survey cosponsored by Microsoft revealed that preventing identity theft was the top online safety topic both teens and parents of teens would like to learn more about.2 The Identity Theft Resource Center’s (ITRC’s) 2016 Identity Theft: The Aftermath study3, which surveyed victims of identity theft in 2015, revealed the following:

  • The accounts most commonly taken over by thieves included email (11%), payment services (10%), social media (9%) and online banking (8%). Additional compromised account types include online medical portals (5%), health trackers (2%) and gaming (2%).
  • Nearly a fifth of survey respondents reported significant repercussions when their online accounts were taken over, including job loss (24%) and reputational damage among friends (61%) and colleagues (31%).
  • Of the respondents who identified experiencing criminal identity theft issues, 30 percent found themselves in need of state government assistance programs to overcome the financial impact of identity theft.
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