Articles

Dangers of the Internet: How to Avoid Online Scams

Friday, October 18, 2019

The internet has become so integral to our daily lives that we might often forget the dangers associated with it. These internet dangers aren’t even tucked away in some far-reaching corner of the web; they can be right there in front of any users, including children. 

Take, for example, email. You check it all the time for work, school or pleasure. You’ll get the occasional email, too, that you may need to reset your password. Then, there are those rare moments when your spam filter missed an email or two. And, of course, there are others that sneak through because they seem like they’re from legitimate senders when, in fact, they aren’t. 

And, that’s just one way that a normal, day-to-day interaction can put you in harm’s way. 

Want to know other avenues that hackers and online users can take to get you? Our Kinetic by Windstream team is here to help you avoid online scams and other internet dangers this National Cybersecurity Awareness Month with these five things around which you’ll want to exercise some caution.

1. Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is the use of technology to inflict willful and repeated harm. It’s most often found in places where teens gather online, such as social media platforms like Instagram or Tik Tok, gaming platforms and video streaming websites. 

And, before you think that this is something that only happens to teenagers, think again. Have you looked at the comments on social media public pages or on forums recently? They’re littered with disagreements between users that can get pretty nasty. Aside from name-calling, some users kick it up a notch, making threats or even doxxing others. A newer form of cyberbullying, doxxing is the distribution of personal information — names, addresses, phone numbers — online without permission. One of the best known examples was the publishing of Ashley Madison customers’ names, banking information and more.

Read our blog about catching and curbing cyberbullying to learn all the ways that this phenomenon can manifest itself and how you can shut it down.

2. Strangers and predators

One of the biggest internet safety pitfalls and dangers is the strangers and predators you can easily encounter, particularly on social media channels. You can easily find convicted sex offenders in your area with the help of the internet. But, the online realm brings about a new kind of problem — you may not really know with whom you’re talking. Users can hide behind screen names, pretending to be other teens or posing as a friend or family member with, say, a stolen photo.

The best strategy to guard yourself (or your children) against strangers or predators is to ensure you’re not sharing personal information — especially addresses and phone numbers — on social sites. Learn about each platform’s privacy settings, and choose which you prefer.

Remember, too, that it’s good practice to talk to your children about internet usage and etiquette before they even create online profiles. 

3. Inappropriate content

There are many ways you can reach inappropriate or NSFW (not suitable for work) content online. Have you ever, for example, scrolled through your social media feeds and saw explicit content from someone that you follow? Or, have you followed a hashtag to see what others are saying about that topic and run into NSFW things? 

It’s important to note that inappropriate content could differ for children, depending on their age. An 8-year-old boy may see some blood and gore and hear foul language in online video games — something that you may not want to expose your child to at that age.  

Don’t forget that the internet is essentially a virtual sandbox, allowing mostly anyone to view anything. Avoid sketchy websites, like torrent downloading or pornography pages. And, if you’re very concerned about what your child is doing online, try some safety app software that, among all capabilities, can track keystrokes on a phone and app usage.

4. Identity theft

You’ve likely heard many times over that you should be especially careful when entering any personal or sensitive information online. This can be the case if you’re checking your bank account account, filing your taxes or doing some online shopping. (For safe online shopping tips, read our blog.)

A report from Javelin Strategy & Research found that, in 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity theft, a new record that surpassed the year before. There are different types of identity theft, and if you do fall victim, here’s how to recognize it and report it.

Miss one step — whether the company’s data was breached or if you visited a non-secure site — and that very sensitive information can get into the wrong hands, leading to some sort of identity theft. We’ll cover methods to avoid identity theft in the section below.

5. Fraud and online scams

Identity theft can lead to fraud, as it’s with that personal information that someone else can mimic you. With financial data, hackers can buy expensive things, maxing out your cards and possibly affecting your credit score. With your Social Security number, hackers can apply for new credit cards, jobs and more. 

So, how can you avoid online fraud and identity theft? One way is to ensure that your devices are using the most updated software. This includes the apps and security software on your computer. Next, you’ll want to have strong passwords to make it more difficult for hackers to gain access to your accounts. You will also want those who have access to connected devices to know how to spot scams, particularly phishing attempts.

Starting to see how your everyday online routine can easily get you in trouble? Follow these steps to help avoid internet dangers in your daily ventures, and see how an internet service — like Kinetic Internet — can provide not only speed and reliability, but safety, too!