July 21, 2020

Cybersecurity and Protecting Your Identity

Cyber-fraud and cyberattack activities are increasing daily from foreign countries and within the US. It is always important to remain vigilant when protecting your data and yourself. We hear the term all the time, but what does “getting hacked” mean? Hacking occurs when your personal information is compromised and used to commit fraud online. It’s becoming more prevalent and the “bad actors” are getting craftier about getting around ordinary security systems.

Take These Steps Before You’re Hacked

You know the old saying, “the best defense is a good offense.” By taking a few simple steps, you can lessen the likelihood you’ll become a victim of hacking. And you’ll be in a better position to take steps immediately if you suspect you’ve been hacked.

1. Use strong passwords, and a different one for each website you use.

We know this one is hard. You have passwords for so many places: banks, credit cards, brokerage and retirement plan accounts, email, social media, online shopping sites and so much more. Strong passwords have at least 8 characters- with at least one uppercase, one lowercase, numbers and special characters. A password manager can help by securely keeping track of all your passwords so you only have one to remember.  

2. Keep security software current.

This is the best defense against viruses, malware and online threats, not just on your computer, but on your mobile devices like your tablet and phone as well.

3. When in doubt, throw it out.

Links in emails, text messages, social media posts and online advertising are often how cybercriminals try to steal your personal information. Even if you know the source, if something looks suspicious, delete it.

4. Set up alerts for account activity.

Many financial institutions let you set up an alert (usually a text message or email) when your card is used. This can help you quickly become aware of unusual activity.

5. Monitor your credit report.

The three major credit bureaus—Experian, Equifax, and Transunion—all allow you to pull your credit report once a year at no charge. Take advantage of this free service, and if you see anything incorrect on the report, follow the necessary steps to correct it.

6. Check your banking and credit card accounts daily.

You’re more likely to notice a problem if you regularly keep tabs. And be sure to watch for small transactions of a dollar or even a few cents—these may indicate a bad actor is testing your account to see if it’s vulnerable.

7. Watch for “skimmers.”

If you’re at a self-service gas station or other merchant and the card slot seems loose or somehow acts unusual, leave without entering your PIN. These skimmers will capture your account and PIN information, meaning the bad guys have access to everything they need to clear out your account or run up your balances.

I’ve Been Hacked—Now What?

Even with the best of precautions, it happens. Acting fast is vital to protect your information and accounts. Here are some steps to take right away:

1. Always confirm with your financial institution or credit issuer.

If you get an unexpected call saying you’ve been hacked, or a payment is late, don’t give any personal information on the phone. Hang up and call back the bank, credit card company, or merchant (or even the IRS) using the main number from their website to confirm.

2. Change all your passwords immediately.

This is a vital early step to maintaining your security. If the bad actors have compromised one of your accounts, all the others are at risk.

3. Consider a credit freeze.

Contact the three major credit bureaus to have your credit frozen. If someone tries to use your personal information to open an account, they won’t be able to, and you’ll get an alert.

Please feel free to reach out if you’d like more information about your keeping your personal and financial information secure.

Written by:

Brooke Gautreau, COO