In this digital age, privacy requires extra effort for each of us.

Hackers use a number of ways to get into electronic devices (laptops, smart phones, tablets). The most common type of cyber crime is the phishing scam, which can arrive in the form of an email or text and contains a link. These messages are often realistic-looking, use fraudulent websites and appear to be sent from a friend or trusted sender (such as a bank or social network), so you’ll feel safe to click on the link. Yet, clicking on these links loads software onto your device, which gives hackers access to install any number of other programs that allow them to spy on you and steal your data.

Installing security software on all your electronic devices is a critical first step in beating cyber crime. In addition, it’s important to understand how phishing scams work and what they look like when they land in your inbox.

Some of the sites spoofed most regularly include PayPal, eBay, Yahoo! and MSN, as well as financial institutions. Any legitimate site can be spoofed; and hackers also create fake websites, emails and text for cartoon gaming, celebrities and other popular children’s sites as a way to get private information. So be sure to educate the children in your life about the risks, as well.

Norton, a leader in antivirus and security software, offers the following information and recommendations:

  • Be wary of emails or texts asking for confidential information – especially information of a financial nature. Legitimate organizations will never request sensitive information via email, and most banks will tell you that they won’t ask for your information unless you’re the one contacting them.
  • Don’t get pressured into providing sensitive information. Phishers like to use scare tactics, and may threaten to disable an account or delay services until you update certain information.
  • Never submit confidential information via forms embedded within email messages. Senders are often able to track all information entered.

The best advice is to always call the vendor or financial institution directly, using a phone number that you have verified, before disclosing any information. You are your best defense against cyber crime.