Stay ahead of misinformation – 5 ways to combat fake news
Finding information in this increasingly digital world has never been easier. Our mobile phones dictate top headlines before we even get out of bed, and even our routers can perform complex searches via voice. We see the impact of this easy access on both our consumption and the sharing of information. Just as it’s easy for us to perform a quick search and send the relevant results to our social groups, it’s also simple for bad actors to create and post fake news on seemingly legitimate platforms. In times of uncertainty, it is natural to go online in search of facts, or the latest update. Now is a great time to brush up on your digital hygiene and best practices to stay ahead of evolving threats.
As we’ve learned this year, a lot can change very quickly. We all want to stay up to date on worldwide trends, announcements, or even the elections. This expanded focus on current events opens an opportunity for bad actors. Panic-inducing rumors can be labeled as sensational at best. However, there are malicious promises made via phishing scams that attempt to hook worried and confused consumers into credit card fraud or other payment schemes. Sticking to legitimate news sources is one of the easiest ways to avoid such traps.
Chain mail craze
Not only should you validate your personal newsfeed, you should also hold your social networks to this sanitized standard. While well-intentioned, rumors and fake news often spread through the social grapevine e.g. “my friend saw this on WeChat” or “look at what someone sent me on Facebook.” These updates may feel more relatable since we’re hearing them from someone we know, but keep in mind that social media chain mail is often lacking in factual accuracy. By verifying what you’re see against legitimate information sources, you can help family and friends stay both diligent and in the know.
Phishing scams also come out in full force during moments of public panic. We’ve seen numerous spoofed emails and text messages that claim to be from local governments, hospitals, or even retailers encouraging targets to take action on urgent items. These notices range from falsified instructions for claiming relief checks to scheduling medical check-ups. Some of these phishing emails may be easy to spot as fakes, but the sensitivity of the current environment may cloud our judgment. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of these messages, you can always reach out to the known institution through official channels to verify.
One of the great things about extraordinary moments like these is the outpouring of compassion and empathy from the global community. Sadly, cybercriminals take advantage of this generosity as well. Bad actors have stood up fake charity sites and platforms in the name of donating resources to underserved populations or supporting research. In reality, these may be scams, and any donations received will never see the light of day. It is a best practice to always research charity organizations before you contribute – especially now.
Protect yourself from misinformation
Take a look at some tips and tools below that you can use to stay ahead of misinformation:
- Exercise caution when taking action on emails, texts, and phone calls from unfamiliar sources. Often these messages impersonate legitimate entities or people we may know – reach out to the sender directly if you have doubts.
- Use a free safe browsing extension like McAfee® WebAdvisor that integrates website reputation ratings that can help steer you away from illegitimate news sites. For Chrome users, WebAdvisor will even color-code links in your social media newsfeeds, so you’ll know which ones are safe to click.
- Avoid websites with suspicious URLs or designs that look hastily put together. Check to make sure the site has a secure connection and starts with “https” rather than “http.”
- Some identity theft protection services include social media monitoring to help make sure your accounts aren’t being used by bad actors to spread fake news.
- Parental controls can keep tabs on kids’ screen time, helping limit their time on certain apps or sites that may be more vulnerable to proliferating misinformation.
- Consider using a comprehensive security suite to ensure your devices and online accounts are protected.
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