Frauds and hacking present real dangers in cyberspace


Look before you leap into the vast world of the Internet.

Hacking, online predators and phishing all display the Internet’s dangerous side.

Phishing, a common online fraud occurrence, comes in various forms, including sharing one’s passwords, which gives others the opportunity to break into personal accounts.

An e-mail one receives can be phishing if one is asked for personal information from someone claiming to be a bank or credit card company, as well.

“People aren’t usually aware that something has happened until the damage has already been done,” said James Fatz, IT Security and Operations Director.

No legitimate company would send e-mails asking for personal information without some proof of their authenticity, Fatz said. Fraudulent scams have the ability to damage credit histories and drain bank accounts.

“If you get an e-mail that asks for personal information such as Social Security number or account number, don’t provide the information,” said David Gunkel, associate professor of communication. “If you get anything suspicious, just delete it.”

Most hackers would aim at bigger corporate systems, not at people who bring no value to them, Gunkel said.

“People like you and me aren’t as interesting to them,” Gunkel said.

Computer hacking, although less probable, is still dangerous.

“Someone hacked into my computer about three years ago,” said freshman psychology major Mimi Shabani. “He changed my administrator password and I ended up having to throw the computer away.”

Online predators are yet another major risk. Social networking Web sites such as MySpace and Facebook are just two examples of prowling places for online predators.

Keeping the computer in an open space makes it easier to monitor what children are doing on the computer.

“Parents have a requirement to keep their children safe,” Gunkel said.

College students have been victims of online predators. Fatz said there are usually a few cases in which stalking has been a problem for students and faculty.

While chatting online, one should be very careful of what is sent over the Internet, such as phone numbers, personal information and pictures, Fatz said. Once this information is sent out, it’s extremely hard to retrieve.

The ITS Helpdesk and the NIU Police are able to help in any fraud situation, Fatz said.

“[If something happens,] contact us as early as possible,” Fatz said. “We’re here to help.