Cybercrime: Understanding and Preventing It

Cybercrime has become a fact of life in the digital world. The threat is incredibly serious – and growing. Cyber-intrusions are becoming more prevalent, more expensive, and far more sophisticated. Identity thieves pose a threat to average citizens, and online predators can put our children at risk. Even with churches, the first line of defense is YOU!

Retired FBI Special Agent Scott Augenbaum spent twenty-nine years in the FBI. His last fourteen years were spent investigating cybercrime. Now, Augenbaum has written a book, The Secret to CyberSecurity: A Simple Plan to Protect Your Family and Business from Cybercrime. Churches are no exception.

How to Avoid Being a Cybercrime Victim

  1. Become a human firewall and examine every email you receive. Realize that bad guys want to use your email account as a weapon.

  2. Understand that bad guys desperately want you to click a link or open an attachment in an email. Unless you have thoroughly validated its authenticity, don’t click on it!

  3. Look at the time an email was sent. If it was sent at 2:30 A.M. and you know that person never sends email that late, don’t open it before verifying it.

  4. Check the other recipients of the email. If the email was sent to a large group of people, it usually means the account was compromised and an automated program sent the message.

  5. If you receive an email with an urgent message from your bank, credit card company, utility company, FedEx, UPS, Amazon, eBay, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or any other financial institution or social media application, don’t open it or click on a link! Log in to the actual account manually through a browser or application to check if there’s a legitimate issue.

  6. Make a list of important telephone numbers, such as your bank and credit card companies, and call the numbers you have instead of the ones included in suspicious emails.

  7. If you receive an email containing a friend request from social media, do not click on the link in the message to log in to the account. Bad guys love to use social media friend requests to target victims. For example, if you receive a connection request from LinkedIn, delete the email and then log in to the actual LinkedIn application to see if it’s a legitimate request.

  8. This is very important: Do not store your usernames and passwords for financial institutions, credit card companies, utilities, email, and social media on OneDrive, Dropbox, Google Drive, or iCloud. Write them down on a sheet of paper and store the physical copy somewhere safe. Your safety is far more important than digital access to passwords.

The United Methodist Insurance Program (UMIP) wishes to think Scott E. Augenbaum for being a featured contributor. Augenbaum retired from the FBI in January 2019, after working almost exclusively on computer crime cases in the FBI Office in Syracuse, New York. He has recently launched Hero Publishing, a company devoted to educating the public about the dangers of cybercrime. You can buy his book on Amazon or visit his website at

UMIP in partnership with Suracy Insurance Agency provides property and casualty insurance to local churches, annual conferences, and other related United Methodist entities. UMIP also provides travel insurance for individuals and trip protection for mission groups, United Methodist meetings, and other travel. For more information and for a free quote, go to

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither UMIP, nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates, represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors.