Protecting Palauans from Sophisticated Cyber Crimes

By Jackson M. Henry —-

27.3 million American became victims of cyber crimes in the past 5 years, according to identity theft expert, Steve Weisman. This is not hard to believe since we in Palau get Nigerian emails scams just about every time we log on to the internet. In fact, I got a call yesterday from a soft speaking lady claiming to represent a trading house in New York city. She wants my email address so she can email me the website of a firm that has financial services for my real estate development projects. I could tell the voice is Asian and so I politely told her that I am not interested and hung up the phone.

Identity thieves are now engaging in more sophisticated crimes than simply stealing your money. They are combing all corners of the earth for victims, especially from less savvy internet users in remote Pacific islands including Palau. Criminals are also after access to people’s medical records and immigration status as means to evade arrests or deportation.

Palau is no longer immune to cyber crimes and identity thefts. It’s the dark side of the internet world that Palauans are now exposed to since the instruments of the Information Age arrived on our shores years ago. The motivation behind cyber crimes are mainly financial greed. Billions of dollars are stolen every year from ordinary people like you and me. Texas state alone loses $250 million annually from Nigerian scammers.

Being involved in banking for years, I have consulted many Palauans who had bouts with scams on the internet. Some lost money and others were close to wiring money to overseas dealers whom they never met. Today, Palauans are bombarded daily with internet scams and cyber criminals and some will eventually fall prey to them.

Unfortunately, many people become victim of cyber crime from friends and family members. They spread information about you to career criminals without knowing it.

With Palauans now infatuated with social network sites like Facebook and YouTube, personal information are readily available and criminals use them to crack your passwords and bank accounts.

In 2008, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin got hit by an identity thief because most of her personal information like the name of her dog, her high school and birth date were available on Facebook. On Guam, an insurance magnate lost about $1 million to a Nigerian scammer whom he met on the internet. We have heard of similar victims from Tinian, Pohnpei and Yap.

But Palauans can protect themselves if they follow simple rules. First is never respond to pop-ups or emails that ask for your personal information. Second, do not share files online or Social Security number because cyber criminals hide malware in files that appear legitimate. Build firewalls in your internet connections by constantly updating your Anti-virus software. It is also advisable to protect your passwords by memorizing them instead of writing them on paper in your wallet. Change your password every 90 days. 10 characters password are harder to hack. It is best not to do online banking in internet cafés or public wi-fi areas and be careful of whom you give you credit card numbers to.

Remember that if anyone offers you something on the internet that is too good to be true, then most likely they are not. Finally, have an honest and able computer expert to assist you from time to time and advise you on the best ways to protect you from cyber crimes.

The internet is a wonder technology but it is not 100% crime free. So take the advise of the FBI and “stay safe by avoiding bad neighborhoods”.

Happy surfing !

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