Fraudsters are continually inventing ways to deceive people. Their schemes can threaten your finances and, ultimately, your livelihood. As a financial advisor, I continually promote ways my clients can improve their personal and financial cybersecurity, and be proactive in protecting themselves.
Here are six ways you can protect your data and assets online.
Install updates on your computer. As soon as you see a security release with an operating system, web browser or other software update, be sure to install it immediately. These security updates, along with effective antivirus software, are helpful in preventing hackers from stealing your information. To reduce the chance that a threat may be embedded in the antivirus software itself, consider using a reputable product from a U.S.-based company.
Authenticate. Look for ways you can set up multi-factor authentication to log in to an application or a website you use for financial purposes, or that contains other sensitive personal data. This enables you to offer multiple ways to identify yourself and to protect your information, whether it be pushing a special notification or sending a temporary code as a text or email. When it comes to cybersecurity, the more layers of protection you have—and the more hoops fraudsters have to jump through—the better.
Be smart with passwords. Your passwords should be unique for each account and include upper and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Although it’s tempting to use the same password for multiple accounts so you can remember it easily, it’s safer not to reuse passwords — especially for your online bank and investment accounts. (In particular, make sure that your social media accounts don’t share the same passwords as your financial accounts!) Also, keep the passwords in a safe place, change them regularly and don’t share them with others.
Watch out for scams. One way that fraudsters frequently operate: they contact you, either online or by phone, asking for personal information like a credit card number, your social security number or even something simple like your address. This is where you’ll need to exercise the utmost caution. For your protection, it’s best not to provide any type of identifying information unless you initiate the contact. If anyone reaches out to you, no matter how legitimate or dire it may sound, don’t provide your information. Instead, get the name of the person calling, a number where they can be reached and an email address. Then contact the company they say they’re representing directly through its website or a phone number it posts online to see if there is indeed an issue that needs to be addressed.
Check your credit history. Checking your credit score frequently may help you detect fraudulent activity that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. If you do discover that something is amiss, you can address it sooner rather than later—and, hopefully, minimize the impact.
Beware of public Wi-Fi. It’s convenient to use the free hotspot at the airport or coffee shop. Even better, connecting to public Wi-Fi via a virtual private network (VPN) service installed on your computer. The VPN significantly reduces the chances of your online activity and communications being intercepted. You can also use your cell phone, or another Wi-Fi device from your mobile carrier, to create a personal hotspot.
Safeguarding your personal information and valuable assets can help you avoid becoming a victim of cybercrime. Scammers will continue to create new schemes, but by being knowledgeable and cautious—and acting quickly when you detect a threat—you can reduce the risks.
Photo by Taskin Ashiq
Lisa Taranto Schiffer
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