In an age where security breaches and cyberattacks dominate the headlines, personal security is a concern for everyone. The good news is that if you take a few precautions, you can greatly reduce the chances that you will be a target for fraud. In our latest Heard from Clients column, we are sharing several simple steps you can take to help keep your personal information secure online and keep your family safe at home and while traveling.
We’ve all seen the news accounts of the significant amount of personal information that has been stolen by hackers. Most of us know people who have gone through the extremely tedious and time-consuming exercise of recovering their identities once it’s been stolen. And some of us know individuals who have suffered financial losses from hackers who have accessed their credit cards and bank accounts. It’s more than enough to keep you awake at night!
Here are our best tips for keeping you and your family safe online:
Place a permanent freeze on your credit with each of the three major credit reporting bureaus. This ensures that your personal credit cannot be accessed by anyone who does not have your PIN number, which is assigned when you freeze your credit. If your personal information is ever stolen, it cannot be used to open new credit cards or fraudulent loans. The California Department of Justice explains how to do this here.
Use two-factor authentication (secondary verification) wherever possible for online accounts. If your login ID and password are stolen, secondary verification can keep hackers from accessing your account. While secondary verification is an extra step, it’s one of the most effective ways to protect yourself from hackers.
Use a separate computer or device (iPad, etc.) to log into all of your financial accounts. Do not use this same device for email, search, web surfing, social media or shopping. Malware delivered via email and in online advertising is a common tool used by hackers to gather your keystrokes which provides them with your login IDs and passwords. If you never use email or web surf on the device that is dedicated to your credit card, bank, brokerage and other financial accounts, hackers can’t gather your login ID and password via an email hack.
Minimize your online footprint. Sophisticated syndicates use social media to gather information on wealthy individuals. They look for ways to access their social networks and to gain access. Be sure that your privacy settings limit who can see your posts, and be sure that the privacy settings on your children’s accounts are also set to limit access. Be sure to turn off the “location settings” while posting pictures on vacation.
Never log into your email or financial accounts from an unsecure Wi-Fi network. If you are not certain that the Wi-Fi network is secure, do not use it to access your financial accounts, and only use it for email if you are using an encrypted link.
Establish low balance alerts for all credit and debit cards. So that you are aware of ALL activity on your credit and debit cards, wherever possible establish text alerts to your mobile phone for all charges exceeding $0.01.
Never trust the wiring instructions you receive via email. Always contact the financial institution that provided you with wiring instruction by phone to re-verify the instructions you’ve received by email. And, before the wire is released, be sure that your financial institution reconfirms the final instructions with you by phone. Sophisticated fraud syndicates that gain access to an email account will wait for an opportunity to change wiring instructions. This type of fraud is called “man in the middle,” and it has become rampant. Billions of dollars are being stolen using this technique. The only way to stop this type of fraud is to re-verify the wiring instructions by phone.
To learn more about keeping your personal information and family safe, Fidelity offers this guide to making yourself a difficult target for cybercriminals. And as always, we are here to answer any questions you may have.