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It is so easy to manage your finances online. Paying bills, transferring funds, and buying anything you could possibly need is becoming the new norm. With the dramatic increase in online activity, it comes as no surprise that cyber crimes are also on the rise. The Internet Crime Report for 2012 shows an estimated $525,441,110 was lost due to cyber crime, an 8.3% increase from 2011. You can buck the trend by protecting yourself in a few easy steps

Find out now: Should I buy points?

Types of Crimes

In order to properly protect your wallet, its important to know what you’re up against. The National Crime Prevention Council (aka the organization behind McGruff the Crime Dog), put together a list of the top ten most reported cyber crimes. Fraud, in some shape, made up 32.7% of all the reported crimes. A general definition of fraud is the use of tricks or deception to take someone else’s money, property, or legal right. Two of the most famous case of fraud is the Nigerian prince email or Spanish lottery emails. These emails typically ask for bank account and other personal information in exchange for the promise of some monetary gain. The other big two crimes reported are:

Non-delivery of payment/merchandise (14.4%): after ordering a
Identity Theft (9.8%): One of the biggest fears of doing financial activities online is having someone steal your identity. And there are some pretty crazy horror stories out there.

Prevention Strategies

There are loads of sites and people that are going to be offering advice. There is a lot of overlap in the recommendations, so here are a few general tips.

Strengthen your passwords: This is a tedious tip, as most people will suggest to change your password every 90 days at least. Avoid using words that are in the dictionary. Use passwords with a combination of letter, numbers, and special characters like @,!,#, etc.

Continuously check all of your credit/debit card accounts: If you do a lot of online shopping or online bill pay, constantly check your credit card and debit card statements. Make sure there hasn’t been a recent transaction you didn’t authorize or recognize. This will tip you off if your accounts have been compromised.

Know who you’re buying from: Check out the website and company before making any purchase. See if they have a physical address and if there has been any reviews or problems with the site or company. If buying something in an online auction, check the seller’s rating and comments to see if there are any problems with them.

Keep your firewall and antivirus software up to date: A simple thing to do, malware and viruses are continuously being made and updated. Stay vigilant with your software, if your computer is running slow or random pop ups are occurring, run a virus scan and check for antivirus updates.

Be wary of all email offers from dubious sources: most likely your spam filter is going to be able to most of these annoying emails, but occasionally one or two will get through. Most will have links or attachments, don’t open them unless you are sure you know who sent it to you.

Be careful with file sharing and shady sites: Use common sense when visiting sites. If you’re downloading a freeware program or some other file, make sure it’s from a reputable site and run a virus scan on the file.

Vijay Maharaj Vijay Maharaj is a writer who covers a variety of personal finance topics for SmartAsset. Vijay is an expert in all things higher education, home buying and credit.
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