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Minimizing Fraud in the Digital Environment

Over the past year, there has been an increase in fraudulent activity and identity theft. The shift of day-to-day life to an online environment has made it much easier to steal information. It’s important to protect your private data and information from hackers. Here are some helpful cybersecurity tips to keep your information and identify safe in the digital environment, which will in turn protect your company’s information and the information of customers and clients.

What Are the Major Fraud Risks for Individuals?

Fraud is usually a greater threat during times of economic downturns and crises. This is why it isn’t a surprise that this past year, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that we’ve seen an increase in cybercrimes, many of them directly related to COVID-19 aid and assistance. With an increased online presence, individuals are opening themselves up to the risk of having their information stolen. One major risk of fraud is email. Emails containing hidden malware and links to phishing sites disguised as something else are popular methods for cybercrimes. Opening these emails and clicking on any links allows the hacker to steal log-in credentials and personal information, which can lead to new accounts being open in your name and stolen credit information. Be wary of emails you receive citing information related to COVID-19 government funding, the CARES Act, or Economic Impact Payments, as they could be fraudulent.[1]

Another major fraud risk is false charities. Often through crowdfunding platforms, hackers will create false, but seemingly relevant, charitable solicitations in an effort to obtain personal information from donors. These can often pop up on social media sites to give the impression they are legitimate charities, or someone you know asking for charitable funding.[1]

Many companies have experienced data breaches this past year as well, compromising customers’ information. Emails or text notifications asking customers to update their log-in credentials or payment information are two ways cybercriminals can leverage companies you do business with to obtain your personal information. Always double-check the sender when receiving requests prior to clicking on any links and entering any personal data.[1]

What Are the Major Fraud Risks for Corporations?

In addition to personal data being stolen, corporations are also at risk of having their information compromised. As with individuals, companies are not immune to email and phishing scams, especially during the past year when many businesses were keeping an eye out for any information related to government aid. The emails may contain a link to a landing page that is meant to steal email credentials, but is disguised as important information related to the CARES Act, stimulus packages, or general COVID-19 information your business may want to know.[1]

Another major fraud risk for businesses is vendor account fraud. This is when cybercriminals hack a vendor’s account and update the payment details to divert payments into their account, rather than the vendor’s account. False vendor accounts have also been on the rise, where hackers will create fictitious vendor accounts and profiles to obtain information from your business, as well as steal customer data and information.[1]

Many businesses have shifted to e-commerce during the pandemic, since shopping in-person was no longer an option. This lead to a rise in payment fraud as well. Payment fraud can take many different forms, such as purchasing goods with stolen credit cards, or through newer forms of payment like digital wallets (i.e., PayPal, Apple Pay, or Google Pay). To protect your business from this type of fraud, be wary of the size of the orders. Oftentimes, hackers are using stolen payment methods to purchase high-value items in multiples.[2]

How to Protect Your Information

While you can’t keep hackers and scammers from trying to steal your information, you can help to protect yourself and your business from becoming a victim.

Frequently check your savings and checking accounts, credit cards, and other financial accounts for unauthorized charges. Staying up to date on your financial accounts will ensure you recognize any unauthorized activity so you can report it to your bank and credit card companies right away. Equifax recommends setting aside just five minutes each week to review every charge and withdrawal and to set up notification alerts with your banks and credit cards so you’ll be notified whenever a charge is made.[3]

Frequently change your passwords on your accounts. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us online into a digital environment, our information is now being stored in multiple different places, making it easier to access. By updating your password frequently—for financial accounts, as well as social profiles and emails—you can decrease the likelihood of your data being hacked.  Experts recommend that your password be unique to each account, meaning you shouldn’t use the same password for multiple accounts. The password should be at least eight characters and a combination of upper and lowercase letters and special characters. You should set a reminder to change your passwords every few months, monthly, or even more frequently if you can manage it.[3]

Remove any personal information from any social accounts. You don’t want to make it easy for scammers to obtain your information. Check your privacy settings on your social profiles and make sure you aren’t sharing any personal info—like your address, phone number, email, etc.—that you don’t need to have on your profile.[3]

If you notice any suspicious activity, whether it’s charges on your credit card or unauthorized accounts being open in your name, you should contact the appropriate parties immediately. Contacting the credit card companies, banks, and relevant local or federal authorities will help keep the issue from escalating and allow you to take all the necessary steps to keep your accounts and identity safe.

Protecting your accounts and information will not only keep your personal data safe, but will also protect the data of your clients and customers. It’s important to educate your workforce on cybersecurity and do’s and don’ts when it comes to sharing information digitally. If you are looking to implement a cybersecurity policy, or train staff, Harbor America can help. Our human resource experts will provide you with the tools and resources you need to set up a policy in your employee handbook over cybersecurity and awareness. Our team will assist you in finding the right trainings and implementing the best cybersecurity protocols to protect your business and clients from digital cyber threats.


[1] PWC- COVID-19: How to Prevent the Global Pandemic from becoming a Fraud Pandemic

[2] CNBC- Here’s What Your Business Should Look Out for to Prevent Payment Fraud during Coronavirus

[3] Equifax- COVID and Credit: New Scams Put Identity at Risk during the COVID-19 Pandemic

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