Since 2004, October has been declared Cybersecurity Awareness Month in the United States. While the designation serves as an annual reminder for consumers and businesses to assess vulnerabilities and risks for cyberattacks and breaches, we must be vigilant every minute, hour, day and month throughout the year.
Cybercriminals are on the prowl constantly from around the globe, enticing consumers and businesses with online ads, offers and emotional appeals often “too good to be true.” These malicious tactics are designed to capture password information, financial and bank account data, credit card numbers and other sensitive personal information to facilitate identity theft quickly and easily.
Through the years, cybercriminals have become increasingly sophisticated, rendering even the most experienced and savvy technology users vulnerable, underscoring the necessity of identifying security weaknesses and staying abreast of the latest scams.
Current scams that are commonplace include vishing, which is a fraudulent practice of making phone calls or leaving voicemail messages from a supposedly reputable source to lure individuals into revealing personal information. Phony calls regarding expiring car warranties are a ubiquitous example of vishing.
Of course, phishing, whereby the fraudulent requests of personal information are made thorough email and text messages – notices about compromised PayPal or Amazon accounts are common – remain a serious cybersecurity threat.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans lost $5.8 billion to phishing and other fraud in 2021, a 70% increase from 2020. Astounding.
At The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod, we are committed to ensuring that customer private information is safe and secure. To help protect the private information of our consumer and business clients, we recommend: creating strong passwords; reviewing bank accounts often; using caution when surfing the internet; using up-to-date operating systems and software that are supported by the manufacturer; installing manufacturer recommended updates to computers and mobile devices; installing and maintain firewalls and real-time antivirus/anti spyware software; securing computers and mobile devices when not in use; and learning to spot the signs of potentially fraudulent attacks.
The American Bankers Association (ABA) earlier this month revamped its #BanksNeverAskThat campaign and website. The program offers a treasure trove of information and hints to learn how to spot fraudulent texts, emails and phone calls by knowing the questions and requests a bank would never ask. I highly recommend a visit to www.BanksNeverAskThat.com – a few minutes on the site could save you a lot of money and misery.
Remember, preparation and knowledge are the best way to protect sensitive information to prevent an individual or business from becoming the victim of a cybercriminal.
Paul Forni is Information Security and Red Flag Officer for The Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod.