Tips to Help Avoid Internet and Email-Related Identity Theft
Every day we use the Internet to enhance our lives, but sometimes we forget that the Internet is a bit like the Wild West. There are a lot of bad guys out there, and they’d all love to take a bite out of your financial security using the same tools that you use to simplify it. It’s hard to know exactly where to start for these things, so please use the following tips as a starting place to secure your digital life.
How to Prepare
For all devices (smartphones, desktop computers, laptops or tablets) do the following:
- Use long passphrases. Lengths greater than 16 characters greatly improve your password security, and using a passphrase makes remembering a password easy. Using a long password also reduces the necessity for password complexity.
- Don’t save passwords in your browser, instead use a password manager. There are many great password managers out there that will give you all of the functionality of autofill while protecting passwords with encryption.
- Never re-use the same password. If you are unfortunate enough to use a hacked service, password re-use is typically the first thing checked. Using a password manager makes this significantly easier.
- Install and keep antivirus and anti-malware software up to date
- Install security updates for all software on a regular basis
- Always use a password, even on mobile devices.
- Be sure all mobile devices have a remote wipe capability in case they are lost or stolen.
- Always require a password to unlock your devices.
- When working at a computer in a public setting, always remember to lock your computer when you’re not using it. When using a Windows based computer use “Windows Logo Key” + L; when using a Macintosh based computer use “Command + Shift + Q.”
How to Protect your Financial Accounts
Review all of your financial accounts online at least once per week, preferably daily.
- Review and monitor who has access to your financial accounts and personal information.
- Shred all financial documents and any other documents that contain printed personal information before you discard them.
- Never email any personal identifying information such as your social security number or any financial institution account numbers. If you absolutely need to do this, ensure you are sending it through a secure encrypted method.
- Avoid emailing any money movements to your financial advisor. If you must do so, always follow up with a phone call.
- Whenever possible, initiate any money movements yourself through your financial institution’s secure website.
- If your financial institution calls you and asks you to provide personally identifiable information, hang up and call your institution back. This ensures you’re actually speaking with the organization.
- Be aware of “phishing,” the illegal attempt to mislead consumers into providing personal or financial information, including account numbers, passwords and social security numbers via email or fraudulent websites.
- Beware of “shoulder surfing,” a direct observation technique, such as looking over your shoulder, to get information. It is commonly used to obtain passwords, PINs, security codes and similar data.
- Monitor your credit report on a regular basis.
- Sign up for an Identity theft monitoring service.