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3 cybercrimes affecting your family you need to be on the lookout for

Data breaches, malware, ransomware, and phishing attacks are just a few cybercrimes that we're constantly warning you about. Hackers have even started attacking appliances such as Wi-Fi light bulbs and smart locks. I never would have guessed that my refrigerator could be used against me.

Hacking into a light bulb or a smart appliance falls into a category of cybercrimes. Recently, a woman called Kim on the show and discussed how she was being stalked and tracked online by a former boss. The caller wanted to know how he could know so much about her life, up to and including when she looked at her text messages. Kim helped her out but was quick to point out to the caller that this was a situation for the police. This is a crime called cyberstalking.

Before delving into that, though, let's look at two other crimes that are spreading online. You need to be aware so that you can help keep your family and friends safe. Speaking of, this is an excellent article to share on your social media accounts or by email. After all, knowledge is power.

Cyberbullying

Trolls are people who saturate the internet with inflammatory comments or meaningless discussion to distract others or even pick a fight. They comment endlessly to get their point across, even if it's completely wrong. This usually happens on social media.

An extreme version of trolling is cyberbullying, which is when someone communicates electronically to bully a person. The cyberbully typically sends messages to the victims, intimidating or threatening them.

Studies have shown that cyberbullying can lead to low self-esteem, depression and even suicide. Children are at high risk of being cyberbullied. Nearly 35 percent of students say they have personally experienced cyberbullying and over 85 percent say they've witnessed it.

Here are some suggestions to keep your kids safe:

  • Talk to your kids - You should have open discussions about cyberbullying on a regular basis. Let them know that you are there to help. Encourage them to let you know immediately if they, or someone they know, are being cyberbullied.
  • Keep track of their online activity - Know what sites your kids are visiting online.
  • Use parental control filters - You can install parental control filtering software or monitoring programs on their gadgets. These allow you to keep track of their online behavior.
  • Ask for your children's passwords - Ask for their passwords, but let them know that you will only use them in case of an emergency.
  • Friend or follow them on social media - This will allow you to monitor their activity and see if they are being bullied.
  • Establish technology rules - Teach them the appropriate use of computers, phones and other gadgets. Be clear on what sites they can visit while online and to be smart about what they post. Let them know that once they post something embarrassing to themselves or others online, it's out of their control of what people will do with it.
  • Learn school rules - Most schools are coming up with policies on dealing with cyberbullying. Here are some questions to ask your kid's teachers about the topic.

False identity

It's more than likely that you've come across some fake profiles while you're online. It sometimes happens on social media when jokesters create a profile impersonating a celebrity. Who knows why they do it, maybe just as a prank.

Or, it could be something more devious. A couple years ago a 35-year-old man posed as Justin Bieber online to trick teenagers into taking their clothes off in front of a webcam. Thankfully he was caught and sentenced to prison.

Another type of online impersonation comes in phishing attacks. Phishing is when attackers send an email or another form of communication that pretends to be coming from a legitimate institution such as banking or shopping websites to steal sensitive data.

These phishing attacks have happened numerous times. The scammers say you need to log into the site, using the link they provide, to fix whatever went wrong with your account. However, the link is malicious and if you click on it and sign in the attacker gets your credentials.

Here are some things to look for:

  • The "From" address - If the email address is from any type of address that looks like "tkupetz@wbased.k12.pa.us" or anything similar, delete the email immediately.
  • Grammar - No matter how much it gets proofread, any company is going to occasionally send out an email with a spelling or grammar error. Fine. But phishing emails often contain glaring and obvious mistakes that you can catch without being a copy editor. Awkward phrases, missing punctuation and wrong capitalization are just a few places to start.
  • Formatting - Are the paragraphs in the body of the email formatted correctly? Are some random words in bold? Are there extra spaces? Are there images included that don't make sense?
  • In-body links - Remember that NOT ONE legitimate company will provide links for security issues. If there's a problem, the company will ask you to head directly to the company's website and enter your information there, rather than provide you a link to follow. You can also hover your mouse over the link to see where it really directs you. You'll discover that these links actually infect your computer with dangerous malware - all with just one click. As a rule of thumb, don't click any links if you think the email is suspicious.
  • Non-corporate phrases - When was the last time you received an email from a major corporation that ended with "God bless you"? Remember, this isn't an email from your aunt. It's supposed to be from a multibillion-dollar international company that isn't going to risk offending anyone. Also, make sure there's a sign off as scam emails have often just ended.

Do you now have the knowledge to outsmart phishing scammers? Take our quiz to put your knowledge to the test, and learn the red flags that set phishing emails apart.

Cyberstalking

The internet gives creeps countless tools to stalk, harass and steal information from people online. The best way to figure out how a creep could potentially go after you online, oddly enough, is to think like one. Spies and cybersecurity professionals use all of the tactics that I'm going to talk about now, but more importantly: So do creeps.

Can you stay completely off of a stalker's radar on the internet? The honest answer is probably not. What you can do, though, is learn their best methods for tracking you online and how to fight back against them.

  • Secure your webcam - If you have a webcam, IP camera or anything connected to the internet with a camera on it, then you're at risk. With enough know-how, hackers can hunt down your IP camera's internet address. After they've figured out where your camera is located, a hacker can watch your every move. Luckily, I've already figured out a way you can protect yourself from people spying on you in your own home. This tip will teach you about how your security cameras work and how to easily keep crooks from monitoring you without your consent.
  • Tracking on social media - One of the easiest ways to follow almost anyone online is through social media. You don't need a hacker's know-how to do this. All a person needs to stalk someone online is their name, general location and a few accounts on social media sites. It isn't hard to counter stalkers on social media. As a matter of fact, one of my tips gives you step-by-step directions on how to lock your Facebook away from anyone you don't know. Click here to find out how to get a Facebook privacy checkup.
  • Tracking pictures with photo geotags - Your phone might be tracking the location where you're taking a picture. Not only that, but stalkers know about the secret data that could be stored on your pictures and can use it to track you. They can use this information to find out where you or your kids live, hang out or other dangerous information based on where you are. Your phone's GPS is a great tool, but it could secretly be writing location data for every single picture that you've ever taken. Learn more about geotags and what you can do about them in this helpful tip.
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