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Beware of Device Takeover Scams

Posted on June 21, 2016 Security Center 0 comments

As it becomes more commonplace for criminals to use technology to take control of users' devices from remote locations, United Heritage is warning members to always be vigilant of potential scams.

These criminals are known to make contact via phone calls, text messages and emails. Posing as real companies, they often use one of the following techniques to gain control of a user's device without permission and install malware, which is any kind of malicious software that is installed on a user's device without his or her knowledge:

  • Send emails that claim users must click on a link and supply private information, like passwords and credit card numbers, in order to update or maintain an online account. The links usually direct to websites that appear to be legitimate but are actually infected with malware. This technique is known as phishing.
  • Offer technical support in exchange for remote access. Once access is granted, the criminals install device takeover malware.
  • Use coupons or ads to direct users to infected websites or malicious download sites that automatically install device takeover malware. 
  • Redirect a website's visitors to a separate, fake website that automatically installs malware on the user's device. This is known as pharming.

There are a number of ways your device can get infected. Computer viruses, also known as malware, are programs that can copy themselves and cause harm when opened on your device. They can enable scammers to control your device, scan your device for private information (like passwords) and monitor activity on your device.

Computer viruses can spread through email attachments and programs downloaded from websites. This is why it’s important to only open email attachments and download programs from sources you trust.

Spyware is a type of software that can collect data from devices without users' knowledge. It is often difficult to detect and can allow someone to take over an infected device or steal private information (like passwords).

Many times spyware is hidden in pop-up ads. When a user unknowingly clicks on an infected ad, he or she is often taken to a website where the spyware is automatically downloaded without the user realizing. For this reason, it's important to be selective of which ads you click on.

How to Protect Yourself from a Device Takeover Scam

Legitimate companies will never contact you to ask for your banking sign in information. It is important that you never give this information to someone you do not know or trust.

If you receive an email or text message you suspect is a scam, do not open or reply to it. If you have already opened it, do not click any links or attachments, and do not provide any personal or financial information. If you receive a phone call from a source you do not know or trust, do not give out any personal or financial information. 

Though it can be difficult to protect yourself from scams, doing the following can help ensure you and your personal information are safe:

  • Install and regularly update reputable virus and malware protection on your device.
  • Sign in to your device with a user account that does not have install permissions unless you plan to install software from a trusted source.
  • Create unique passwords for all your accounts and update them routinely.
  • Make sure the internet browser you are using is the most up-to-date version, as it will have the latest security features. Internet browsers include Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari.
  • Make sure you regularly install operating system updates, as the latest version will have the most up-to-date security features. Operating systems include Windows, Mac and Linux.
If you have any questions regarding activity on your account or need to report an incident, call United Heritage Credit Union at 512.435.4545903.597.7484 or 800.531.2328.

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