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Cybercrime is on the rise; here's how to protect yourself

You’ve gotten the calls, the emails, the texts. By now, hackers trying to get your personal information is not new.

“I feel like there's a few months where I get a lot of them, and then other times when I don't get any,” said Ben Verdejo. Verdejo said he’s had a few attempts by scammers to steal his social security number.

Jake Epperson has also had his fair share of run ins with these calls. “I try not to answer phone calls I don’t recognize,” he assured.

In early 2020, the United Nations warned that cybercrime was up 600% during the pandemic, and attacks are still on the rise. But many tactics used to target people remain the same. Chris Hartman, founder of Clarion Cyber Security, said there are a few strategies you should always be on the lookout for.

“The main way that hackers are gaining access or compromising systems is through social engineering or phishing emails,” said Hartman.

Hackers often disguise themselves as others in our inboxes. they can pretend to be social media platforms saying your passwords have expired.

“It looks real, and they click on it, and they enter their information,” explained Hartman. “And you just handed everything over to the hacker.”

Sometimes they can even appear as your boss.

“It appears to come from the CEO, or the president and whatever. And so they're just thinking it's this person of authority,” Hartman said.

In 2021, 323,972 internet users fell for phishing attacks. With statistics like this, it can seem like just opening your computer is a risk.

But there are things you can do to stay safe like changing your passwords frequently and using strong passwords, using network firewalls, not accessing free public wifi without a VPN, deleting your debit and credit card information from websites, and the biggest one of all — educating yourself and others on the importance of cybersecurity.

“We're kind of in this scenario where a lot of people are thinking, hey, I'm just in this small town, nobody's you know, it's safe, I don't have to lock my car, I don't have to lock my front door,” Hartman said. “But as soon as you get online, you're really opening up yourself to the world.”

A long time lover of NPR and radio reporting, Clayre Scott joined UPR in August of 2021 as the producer of the weekly podcast UnDisciplined. She began reporting in 2022 and now enjoys telling stories through sound and getting weekly texts from her family after hearing her on the radio. Along with her work at UPR, Clayre is attending Utah State University to get her degree in Broadcast Journalism, with time on the side to study Political Science and Art History.