With security breaches regularly making headlines, it’s more important than ever to stay on top of securing your personal data. Hackers will keep hacking, and crooks will find new ways to fool, cajole, or coax you to give them your secure information. Here are nine tips to help keep you safe.

security, person using laptop

  1. Passwords matter. They’re your first line of defense to keep your financial data safe. Complexity is best, so aim for double digits – an eight-character password can potentially be hacked in hours; 14 characters are infinitely less likely to be cracked. The best passwords use a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols, and don’t use words, names or birthdays. And never write them down.
  2. Password managers help. Because you should have a different password for every login, and passwords should never be ‘autosaved,’ a password manager can help you keep track. This is the one password you must remember – therefore, it should be the most complex. Use clues that help you remember, but won’t be easily decipherable. Many let you log in to the accounts you save directly from the manager.
  3. Increase your security with two-factor authentication. While an extra step, it’s far fewer than those you’d have to take if someone accessed your information.
  4. Don’t overshare. So many of us post our lives online: what we’re up to, where we are, who we’re with, and important dates. But this can be a prime resource for someone with ulterior motives. This is another good reason to choose your passwords carefully, as well as your other security codes.
  5. Be wary. Unless you’ve asked an organization, business, or friend to send you information as an attachment or link, don’t open it. Phishing is real, and it’s not as fun as fishing. A simple click can give nefarious characters access to your most valuable information.
  6. Know before you go. When surfing online, look carefully at URLs (web addresses) and make sure they match your expectation. Especially sites that should be secure – secure sites start with https.
  7. Choose games and apps wisely. While the majority of apps available for smart phones are safe, games are more likely to pose a risk. Download or access from reputable sites, check reviews, and avoid apps unless you’re sure they’re safe.
  8. Pay attention to your surroundings. Skimming— using a mechanism to scan and copy your cards—is lucrative for those who can pull it off. Use in-branch ATMs when you can, go inside to pay for gas or use gas pumps closest to the door, and keep an eye open for anything that looks amiss.
  9. Never share sensitive information over social media messages or email. Financial institutions and reputable companies will never solicit sensitive account information or payment details through these channels. If you ever receive a message that looks suspicious, reach out to the company from a publicly listed phone number or support email address to verify if it’s authentic or not.