In today’s digital age, people of all ages have become heavily reliant on the internet for various purposes, including social interactions, official tasks, online shopping, financial transactions, and branchless banking etc. While we benefit from this technology in our daily lives, it is crucial to remain vigilant against cybercriminals. Unlike traditional criminals, cybercriminals use tactics like phishing scams, fake websites, hacking, exploiting technical vulnerabilities, or impersonating reputable entities such as internet/mobile companies, banks, or law enforcement agencies. Just like traditional crimes, cybercrimes can have a devastating impact on our lives and finances.
Unfortunately, Pakistani online users have been facing various challenges with reference to online crimes that are evolving with technology. For example, there is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for deception by creating fake audio and video content for purposes like harassment, cyberstalking, and extortion. Additionally, there are fraudulent e-commerce websites and illegal loan apps that exploit needy users by offering easy and instant loans, only to later harass, blackmail, and extort them for repayment. Although the concerned bodies like Government entities for their public support programs, banks for their customers etc. run regular awareness campaigns to warn public not to share any sort of their personal information i.e. CNIC details, OTPs, banking app credentials etc. However, the public sometimes succumbs to digital fraud, fake reward schemes, easy loans and illegal websites/apps.
The safe use of the internet is needed in today’s digital age which can be easily achieved at the individual level by taking basic steps as follows to protect ourselves from digital fraud:
Awareness: Make yourself and others aware of different types of known digital frauds to identify and avoid potential scams. For public guidance, the PTA and relevant ministries have launched awareness campaigns. Subscribing to their Social Media accounts/channel can be very helpful in getting instant updated awareness content. PTA’s following Social Media accounts/pages can be subscribed/followed for receiving updated information and related guidance:
- X (formerly known as Twitter), Youtube, Facebook, Tiktok: @PTAofficialpk
Personal Information: Avoid sharing personal details, passwords, OTPs, PIN,s etc with anyone at any cost, and avoid saving passwords, and personal details on anyone else’s device.
Cookies: Be aware of accepting cookies policy offered by websites as it allows disclosing user’s private information so it is a best practice to pass and decline so as to keep private information safe from data-mining websites.
Strong Passwords: Configure a combination of at least 8 alphanumeric passwords comprising of lowercase and uppercase letters, numerals, and special characters for each of your online accounts. It is best practice to frequently change the passwords.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication: Enable Two-factor authentication if available, this adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second form of identification, such as a code sent to your phone or email, in addition to your password.
Emails and Messages: Be aware of unsolicited emails or messages requesting personal information or containing links to click. Verify the sender’s identity before clicking on any links or providing any information.
Antivirus Software: Install reputable/proprietary antivirus software on your devices to detect and remove any malware.
Software Updates: Install the latest updates and security patches for your computer operating system, web browser, android, and IOS software from authentic/proprietary sources only. This will help to protect you from known vulnerabilities and exploits.
Monitor Accounts: Regularly review your bank and credit card statements for any unauthorized transactions or e-mail IDs for unauthorized access. Set up alerts for any unusual activity on your accounts.
Taking proactive precautionary steps is essential to safeguard ourselves online and minimize the risk of falling prey to cybercriminals. PTA is diligently working to remove and block unlawful online content. In the unfortunate event of online fraud, victims should promptly report the incident to the FIA Cyber Crime Wing for legal action.