October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month and prime time to talk about protection. Whether you’re an online shopper, browser, gamer or social media “famer”, identity thieves are banking on you – and your valuable personal and credit information – to be easy prey. Knowing what to watch for, where the potential risks are and how to take charge of your online life can help keep your identity from being hacked and your credit intact.
Use these tips to help protect against cyber thieves:
Choose credit over debit.
Especially for online shopping. If your information is stolen while using a debit card, your cash can be gone in an instant.
Use the latest version of your browser to shop.
And don’t shop using public Wi-Fi!
Be wary of email attachments.
Any email appearing to be from a legitimate organization, retailer or government agency that prompts you to open an attachment is a big red flag. It’s likely a phishing scam to get you to download malicious software to access your information. Delete the email immediately!
Protect your computer.
Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software, plus a firewall. Keep your internet browser and operating system up to date. If you doubt the legitimacy of an update request, contact the manufacturer directly.
Protect your mobile devices.
Your smartphone or tablet is just as vulnerable to attack as your PC. Be wary about links, use security software and don’t use public Wi-Fi when sharing personal or financial data.
Use complex passwords.
Longer is better with a random mix of numbers, letters and special characters. Don’t get complacent. Be sure to create a unique password for each site.
Gone are the days when all identity thieves wanted was your credit card information.
Today’s criminals are after a much bigger piece of the pie – and they’re getting it. With attacks becoming more sophisticated and prevalent, early detection is key. Identity thieves can sell your personal information on illicit websites, bulletin boards, and chat rooms. The internet is where criminals swap new scams and buy and sell identity data. You may never know about these online transactions of your personal data until you become a victim of fraud – and your good name and credit is trashed.
What else can you do to help stay protected?
If you’re not already monitoring your credit, this is the ideal time to start. Monitor your accounts and regularly review all three of your credit reports for unusual activity throughout the year. Also, consider identity theft monitoring to help protect your social security number and other personal data from going to the highest bidder on the dark web.