As we live more of our lives online, we must remember that our personal information also lives online. Each purchase, transaction, and communication leaves a footprint that criminals are eager to use for nefarious purposes.
Here are a few of the most important steps you should take to protect yourself from fraud:
- Check out your financial institution’s account protections. Ask about security challenge pass-phrases, account notes, mobile alerts on activity, travel protections, etc. And use them.
- Never share your passwords with anyone, and do not write them down. Instead, either commit them to memory or use a digital password management service like LastPass. LastPass stores all your passwords in a secure place. When you visit a website and need to login, LastPass will log you in. Of course, you’ll need to memorize your master LastPass password.
- Strong passwords are:
- At least 11 characters in length
- Case-sensitive and include letters, numbers, and symbols
- Not recycled across multiple sites
- Changed every few months
- Use multifactor authentication whenever you can. This is a combination of methods including things like passwords or challenge questions (something you know), a one-time password token (something you have – like your mobile phone), or biometrics (something you are).
- Verify the legitimacy of every website you visit. Particularly if you’re making online purchases, ensure “https” appears before the URL and that you trust the website. Be sure you also understand how to dispute transactions with a vendor, should you notice any discrepancies on your account.
- Never provide personal information in response to emails or unsolicited phone calls. This is phishing, and it’s a clever way for criminals to obtain personal information easily – by you providing it. If you are unsure of the legitimacy of an email or phone call you receive from a financial institution or vendor, do not provide any information. Instead, call the financial institution or vendor back directly (not with the same contact info as in the suspicious email or phone call) and confirm the need for your information. Do not open attachments or click on links in emails if you suspect they are fraudulent.
- Be wary of offers that are too good to be true. If a communication or promotion solicits personal information while instilling a sense of fear or requiring you to act fast, treat it with caution.
- Ensure your virus protection is up to date. You should never get online without dependable antivirus and antimalware protection software.
If you suspect fraudulent activity on your own accounts, follow these steps immediately.