Three easy steps to prevent a criminal from hacking your digital life

Email scams are cheap and easy to deploy. That’s why so many scammers use email as their preferred method of attack against unsuspecting targets – and because they work.

I received an email from a scammer representing to be from the popular company Netflix. In it, the fraudster told me that there was a problem with my payment information and I needed to click a link to update my payment information. Instead of clicking on the link provided, I opened a fresh tab on my Internet browser and navigated to Netflix.com. My account was safe and perfectly sound.

Instead of deleting the email, I opened the link on a special computer I set up to explore these types of emails. The site looked authentic and it would be hard to tell the difference from the real thing.

I forwarded the email to Netflix at phishing@netflix.com and deleted it from my inbox.

The fraudulent email wanted me to enter my login credentials and credit card information. If I had entered them, the scammer could have used my credit card information for fraudulent purchases. He could also try using my login ID and password to test my login credentials at the bank associated with my credit card.

Many people use the same login credentials for multiple accounts. This Netflix example is a good reason why you shouldn’t do that. Criminals can use your login information to test many types of financial accounts to see if the information works across different institutions. If you use the same login name and password for multiple accounts, and a criminal gains access to it, that scoundrel could cause far more financial damage to you than simply maxing out your credit card.

I compartmentalize my account access by creating a unique login name and password for every online account I own. That way, if a criminal finds a way to gain access to one, it won’t be so easy for the criminal to get access to another.

Here are three easy steps you should take to prevent a criminal from using an email to hack your digital life:

  • Use a different password for each of your online accounts
  • Avoid clicking on links embedded in an email
  • Open a fresh tab in your Internet browser to log into an account and verify its status

While there’s no fool-proof way to prevent determined and skilled criminals from getting access to a digital account, you can take precautions to make their task much more difficult. Use the three steps above to help keep your accounts under your control.