In the evolving digital era, with advancements in technology come new avenues for cybercrimes. Among these, email phishing and identity theft have become pervasive threats, damaging both individuals and corporations. This article will examine the effects of these cybercrimes and outline the steps one should take if they fall victim.
Understanding Email Phishing and Identity Theft
Email phishing is form of cybercrime where fraudsters send malicious emails, camouflaging as trustworthy sources, in an attempt to extract sensitive data such as login credentials or credit card information from unsuspecting victims.
Identity theft, on the other hand, is a crime where perpetrators use another person’s personal information, without their consent, typically for financial gain. This information can include Social Security numbers, bank account details, and other sensitive information.
Email phishing and Identity theft are often used together to achieve the fraudsters goals immediately or over a period of a time if left undetected or unchecked.
- Financial Loss – The most immediate effect is the potential financial loss. Fraudsters can empty bank accounts, make unauthorized credit card transactions, or take out loans in the victim’s name.
- Credit Damage – Identity theft can lead to significant credit damage. With access to personal information, criminals can open new accoutns, leading to unpaid debts recorded on the victim’s credit report. This can lower credit scores and affect future financial opportunities.
- Emotional Trauma – Victims often experience emotional distress, including feelings of violation, stress, and fear. In extreme cases, when problems continue mounting, it can lead to anxiety and depression.
- Loss of Personal Time – Resolving issues related to identity theft and phishing can be time consuming, involving contacting banks, filing police reports, and monitoring credit reports for further suspicious activities.
- Financial Impact – Businesses can suffer substantial financial losses due to fraudulent transactions, fines for data breaches, and costs related to improving cybersecurity measures.
- Reputation Damage – Trust is crucial in business relationships. A breach can tarnish an organization’s reputation, leading to loss of customers and future business opportunities.
- Legal Consequences – Companies could face legal actions from affected customers or employees, and penalties from regulatory bodies for failing to protect sensitive data adequately.
What To Do If You Are a Victim
Falling victim to phishing or identity theft can be distressing and embarrassing, but taking immediate and appropriate steps can mitigate the damage.
- If you believe that you have inadvertently been the subject of a phishing or identity theft attack is to notify your trusted Information Technology Support person. If there is a pop-up on your screen with a telephone number, do not call the number or follow the instructions from the phishing email or the suspected fraudster. If this happened at work, notify your supervisor and/or information technology support personnel.
- Contact any financial institution or companies where your information may have been affected. Report the fraud to your bank, credit card issuer, and other relevant company. These organizations can temporarily freeze your accounts, assist you with changing your passwords, issue new cards, and investigate any potentially fraudulent transactions with you.
- File a report with local law enforcement. Although local law enforcement may not be able to assist you directly, they can document your situation and assist in alerting other individuals that may be affected by fraud attempts. Many cybercrimes are cross jurisdictional boundaries, so the documentation may help also build a case against the fraudster.
- If you believe that your personal information is being used for financial accounts, you should contact the major credit bureaus. Each of the major credit bureaus also have excellent information to keep you up to date on your credit file.
- Equifax – to place or manage a fraud alert on your Equifax credit file, visit their Fraud and Active-Duty Alerts Site or call Equifax to discuss your situation at 1-888-Equifax (378-4329).
- Experian – to place or manage a fraud alert on your Experien credit file, visit their Fraud Alert Site or call Experian directly at 888-397-3742.
- Transunion – to place or manage a fraud alert on your TransUnion credit file, visit their Fraud Alert Site or call TransUnion directly at 833-806-1627.
- Report the suspected fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You may contact the FTC via telephone at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357) along with their online Fraud Reporting Site at http://ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
- Make sure that you update passwords immediately on your accounts, particularly for those that contain sensitive personal or financial information. Use unique and complex passwords for each account to make it more difficult for fraudsters to access your information. Enable two-factor authentication on accounts that require a password as an extra layer of protection and so that you receive notifications when your account(s) are accessed without your consent. If you need assistance with managing passwords, immediately contact your trusted Information Technology personnel or service provider.
- Keep up to date by learning about the technology and services that you are using. Learn about common phishing and identity theft tactics to protect yourself in the future. Be skeptical of unsolicited emails, especially those requesting personal information. More importantly, if you are not expecting an email with an attachment from someone, contact them via telephone to confirm the attachment before opening. Ensure that any requests for changing a financial transaction that has been started is confirmed directly with your financial institution using another method, other than email, if possible.
Share this article with your co-workers, friends and family. The impact of these crimes can be significant, but awareness and appropriate preventive measures can safeguard against these threats and reduce the impact on your home or organization.
TIER4 Technical Support has trusted professionals that are trained in handling phishing and identity theft against consumer and organizations. If you suspect that your computer has been compromised, contact the TIER4 Technical Support team at 989-569-6655 option 2. You will receive assistance with your case and guidance along the way.