Written by: Graysen Blazek
In an increasingly digital world, security of personal information remains in the forefront of our concern. Great emphasis should be placed on keeping your information safe and secure when navigating the internet. There are many benefits to conducting business online, but it is important to be aware of the risks involved and how to protect yourself from identity theft, phishing and fraud. The weakest link is often the individual user, so here are 6 tips to help you protect your information online and reduce the risk of financial fraud.
Keep your network secure:
When setting up your wireless internet connection at home, make sure you secure it. By setting up security features such as password encryption you can deter would be hackers. When accessing the internet in a public space, such as the library or your local coffee shop, know that the connection is often not secure. It is generally best to refrain from accessing sites that contain sensitive personal information on such a connection as it can lead to others being able to access your information as well.
Set up banking alerts:
In addition to the benefit of just keeping track of expenses to make sure they are in line with your budget, setting up bank alerts can be a way to detect fraudulent charges. Go through your bank and credit card transactions at least monthly to verify all transactions were authorized by you. You can also set up email and text message alerts that are sent to you every time a card is swiped.
Strengthen your passwords:
These can be difficult to remember. Most of us have passwords on multiple accounts at various websites and it is often just easier to set them all to be the same. The problem with this is that if someone gains access to one account, they gain access to them all. Make sure to create a password that is not personally identifiable (such as your birthdate or last name), add in special characters (!,?,^,&), use upper and lower case letters, and update them on a regular basis. Make sure to create a password that you will be able to remember, as keeping it on a sticky note on your desk is obviously not an optimal solution.
Set up security questions:
Much as passwords should be unique and difficult to guess, you want to do the same when sites give you the option of setting up security questions. These are often used if you need to reset your password, or if would like to add an extra layer of security to your account. Make sure the questions asked and the answers you provide are not public knowledge or would be easy to determine.
Monitor your credit report:
In similar fashion to monitoring your spending transactions, you want to do the same for your credit report. Most banks now offer credit score monitoring, but you can also request your credit report from one of the major reporting agencies once per year for free. Keeping your credit score healthy is an important step towards financial success, so you want to make sure no fraudulent accounts are opened in your name and to verify that all the information is correct.
Beware of fraudulent emails:
Those looking to obtain your information have developed savvy ways of trying to get you to provide it to them. If you receive an unsolicited email asking for you to send funds, to click on an embedded link, or to verify an account it is best to just delete the email altogether. The email may even look as though it is coming directly from a site you often frequent or someone you do business with. If you feel as though the email may be fraudulent, it is best to just call the person or company directly to verify it is from them. Most email accounts do a good job of funneling these types of requests to your spam folder, but they may show up in your inbox as well.
By taking a few precautions you can protect yourself from falling victim identity theft and financial fraud and keep your financial data private. The internet is a great tool as it allows us to quickly obtain information and contact one another at an expedited rate – don’t let it be the tool that others use to gain access to your financial life.
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