Several years ago, my PayPal account was hacked. An unknown thief made off with over $1,000, pulled from my bank account. Thankfully, after many phone calls and conversations with my bank, I got my money back. Still, the incident cost me plenty of time, cost my bank plenty of labor and cost someone $1,000.
That’s just one story, of course, but these kinds of digital thefts are becoming increasingly common and lucrative. According to a new report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) bankrolled by security company McAfee, cyber crime costs the global economy anywhere between $375 and $575 billion dollars annually – nearly 20 cents for every dollar generated by the Internet. Of that, $160 billion of losses are born by individuals like you and me.
It’s not hard to see how those numbers have gotten so big lately. Last year, hackers compromised the point of sale systems of Target and other retailers, stealing 70 million credit card numbers to sell to other criminals. Another group of cyberthugs hacked into a bank’s computers, stealing $42 million through fraudulently created prepaid debit cards. With the right amount of computer knowhow, someone can steal millions of dollars in seconds.
Online theft is only going to get worse with time. “We do not see a scenario in which cybercrime losses diminish,” the report reads. “The outlook for the world is increased losses and slower growth.”
The good news is that there’s plenty you can do to protect yourself from being a victim. Make sure both your phone and computer have malware protection, and keep all your software up to date. Never log on to your online banking account or make financial transactions using a public WiFi network. And keep an eye out for scams when using Facebook and other sites – if an online offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.
[Cybercriminal via Shutterstock]