In today’s digital age, the threat of cybercrime and financial fraud looms larger than ever before.

At a projected value of $10.5 trillion by 2025, the business of fraud has reached staggering proportions. Criminals are well-funded, with access to sophisticated technologies, and often backed by geopolitical adversaries and drug cartels.

The funds acquired through cybercrime are often used for nefarious purposes, including drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, and more.

The good news is, there are clear steps we can all take to mitigate these risks and safeguard sensitive information. Derived from the lessons shared in our recent webinar, How to Hack a Human: Cybersecurity & Fraud Prevention, here are nine actions you can take to keep your assets and privacy secure.

1. Strengthen Your Passwords

One of the simplest yet most effective ways to enhance your online security is by using strong, unique passwords for each of your accounts. Avoid common passwords like “123456,” your birthdate, or the word “password,” opting instead for complex combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters. Consider using a reputable password manager to generate and store passwords securely.

2. Enable Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds an extra layer of protection by requiring not only a password and username but also a secondary form of verification, such as a code sent to your mobile device. Enable 2FA wherever possible, especially for sensitive accounts like email, online banking, and social media platforms. This additional step can significantly reduce the risk of unauthorized access to your accounts.

3. Stay Vigilant Against Phishing

Phishing remains one of the most prevalent forms of cybercrime, with hackers using deceptive emails, messages, or websites to trick individuals into divulging personal information or clicking on malicious links. Be cautious of unsolicited emails, especially those requesting sensitive information or urging immediate action. Always verify the legitimacy of sender addresses and double-check URLs before clicking on any links. If in doubt, use a web browser or app to directly log in to your accounts instead of clicking links in emails or text messages.

4. Keep Software Updated

Software updates often include patches for security vulnerabilities identified by developers or cybersecurity experts. Ensure that your operating system, antivirus software, web browsers, and other applications are regularly updated to the latest versions. By staying current with software patches, you can minimize the risk of exploitation by cybercriminals seeking to exploit known weaknesses.

5. Clean Up Your Email Records

It’s easy to forget about the treasure trove of information that can be found in your email inbox and sent mail – your contacts, travel plans, the stores where you shop, pay stubs, account information, stored passwords, tax forms, photos of ID and insurance cards, etc. Take time to permanently delete those records from your Inbox or Sent folders.

6. Check Fraud

Check fraud is a growing concern, particularly when it comes to sending and receiving checks in the mail. Consider making payments using ACH, wire transfer, or bill-pay instead, and never leave blank spaces in the payee or amount lines of checks you write. Use online banking to review copies of your checks to ensure they were not altered. Lastly, consider the risks before adding checking features to your brokerage account.

7. Monitor Your Credit and Financial Accounts

Regularly monitor your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions or suspicious activity. Report any discrepancies to your financial institution immediately and consider setting up alerts for unusual account activity. Additionally, check your credit report periodically to detect any signs of identity theft or fraudulent accounts opened in your name. Consider freezing your credit to prevent someone from opening an account in your name fraudulently.

8. Don’t Act Urgently

Scammers will often use tactics that create fear and urgency. For example, they might impersonate an agency such as the IRS, with a threat of a fine or fee if you don’t pay right away. If someone is directing you to send money in a very specific way, be suspicious. Take a breath, slow down, and don’t act urgently. Never share your login credentials or multi-factor authentication codes.

9. Secure Your Devices and Networks:

Protect your devices and home networks with robust security measures, including firewalls, antivirus software, and encryption. Secure your Wi-Fi network with a strong, unique password and consider using a virtual private network (VPN) when accessing public Wi-Fi networks to encrypt your internet traffic and enhance privacy.

Protecting yourself from cybercrime and financial fraud requires diligence, awareness, and proactive measures. By implementing the nine steps above and staying vigilant against emerging threats, you can safeguard your sensitive information and minimize the risk of falling victim to online scams.

The best defense against cyber threats is a combination of technology, education, and common sense.