These days you can’t turn on the news, open a web article, or flip through a newspaper (yes, they still do exist) without reading a story about a cyber security breach where some company, organization, or government agency has been attacked.
What you may not know, though, is that individuals face this risk as well. Personal cyber-attacks are becoming a real threat with the outcome often being financially catastrophic to the victim, especially when fraudsters use your personal information to pretend to be you. This is called identity theft, and it is one of the most damaging ways criminals can access your money.
While many of us may have been a target of cybercrime, or know someone who has, the statistics are chilling when you take a deeper look at them. According to Made In Canada, a Canadian consumer think tank:
- Over 50% of Canadians have experienced cybercrime at least once
- In 2021, Canadian individuals lost over $100 million because of data breaches, and that number continues to increase
- 42% of Canadians faced an online cyber attack during the first 6 months of the pandemic
- 2% of Canadians have had their identity stolen, that’s almost 800,000 people
- The most common type of online fraud is investment fraud through false romance
The impact of cybercrime on individuals in Canada is staggering with the RCMP reporting over $530 million in individual victim losses in 2022, up from $380 million in 2021, so the problem is only getting worse.
For businesses, the news is not much better, with individual companies also finding themselves on the receiving end of cyber-attacks.
- Over 85% of Canadian companies have been a victim of cyber-attack
- 65% of Canadian companies anticipate being hit by a ransomware attack
- 11% of Canadian companies that had a ransomware attack paid the ransom (2021)
- The average ransomware attack costs over $2 million to remedy
- Over 80% of small and medium businesses were the target of a cyber-attack in 2021, ranging from phishing schemes to malware attacks and ransomware attacks.
While the impact on your finances can be devastating, the good news is that there are simple steps you can put into place immediately that will significantly decrease your risk of being victimized by a cyber-criminal.
- Use a complex password and change it often. The best type of password is one that does not relate at all to you personally, contains no birthdates, ages, pet’s names, or any of those other easy to remember details that always make it into our password. Your password should contain a random mix of letters, numbers, capital and lower cases, and symbols. Don’t forget to change your passwords often. Yes, it’s a hassle but it might just save you big time! Remember, most of the cyber bad guys use password cracking software so the more complex and random your password is, the less likely it will be discovered.
- Don’t click on suspicious links! If you receive an email from an unknown source, chances are it is a fraud. Don’t ever click on a link if you are unfamiliar with it, and if it comes from a trusted source but you are still uneasy, check with that person or someone you know in that organization to confirm if it is legitimate. Never give out your password or personal information to anyone online! Also, check the details of any link by hovering over it (don’t click!) and you will see that the spelling has been changed slightly from the legitimate provider. Using names like Netflx instead of Netflix are common scams that cyber-crooks often employ.
- Always choose two-step verification if it is an option. Yes, we totally get that employing a two-step verification process can be a hassle, but it is an effective method of stopping cyber-crime. A two-step verification process requires that in addition to your super tricky password, you will also receive an email, text, or phone call with a verification code that you must enter online before you can access a company’s website. It is not uncommon for many companies such as your financial institution to require two-step verification, while some companies offer it as an option. Whatever the choice, we think two-step verifications are a great thing and encourage everyone to use them!
- Spend the money to purchase comprehensive security software for all your devices. This one speaks for itself and is the most readily available way to protect your devices from attack. Do your research, speak with your favorite retailer, IT specialist at work, or a trusted friend before you make your decision. We understand that it is an expense, however the cost of not having proper software protecting your devices can be crushing if you are a victim of a cyber-attack. And don’t forget your phone or tablet as many security software choices allow you to use the software across multiple devices that you own.
- Delete password reset emails or set up a password reset account. Most companies offer a password reset function on their website that allows you to change your password by sending you an email. This can absolutely be convenient however it can also open you up to attack if your device or computer is compromised. If you can reset the password by email, so can a hacker, so it is important that you delete these emails completely from your email account once your password reset has taken place. Another available option is to use a specialized password reset software that allows you to reset your passwords using an encrypted program. This type of software is readily available so speak with your local computer retailer and they can provide you with guidance. One last word about passwords, don’t keep them in your wallet, and never give them out to anyone!
Protecting yourself from online fraud and cybercrime isn’t particularly a finance or investment strategy, however protecting your finances against these types of attacks, either online or by fraudsters, is a critically important part of your overall financial plan. If you’re like us, you diligently check your doors when leaving home so when it comes to your online security, putting practices in place to lock your virtual home from criminals is more important then ever. These simple steps, if done diligently, may help protect you from an unimaginable financial loss.
If you are interested in learning more about the steps you can take to protect yourself against cyber-theft, or about how Sea Glass Wealth protects your accounts, we would love to chat with you to help put your mind at ease.
We are looking forward to the opportunity to meet you! For more information, please feel free to reach out.
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