The end of year holidays can be a time that we look forward to spending time with family and relaxing before the new year begins. But it is also the time when hackers and cybercriminals are most active. Here are eight tips to help you protect your personal finances, especially during the holiday season.
No financial surfing in coffee shops
You’re at the coffee shop waiting to meet a friend or family member. So, while you’re waiting you decide to check your bank and investment account balances. This is not a good idea. Public Wi-Fi networks—whether you are at the mall, library, a restaurant or a bar— typically are not secure. That means that any information you are looking at on your phone or laptop could be intercepted and viewed by someone else. Save your financial check ins for when you are on a known, secured network such as at home or work.
Make sure you are actually on your financial institution’s website
Sometimes hackers will set up “look-a-like” websites that are impersonating a bank or financial institution. Always check the web address to be sure it is the one that matches your institution. Hackers also like to use website addresses that are nearly identical to the actual, real financial institution to fool account holders into thinking they are at the right place.
Download apps only from recognized sources
There are a lot of places where you can download apps these days. But stay away unless it is from a trusted source such as the Apple or Google Play app stores. The established names have a reputation to protect. Therefore, they usually vet the apps in their stores which usually—but not always—weeds out nefarious apps that can hijack your personal information.
No phishing, please
Many people are still getting trapped by very official looking emails that are fake, also known as phishing emails. The fraudsters are getting very clever at designing emails that look real. If you hover your mouse over the url, usually it will display the exact source address of the email, not the info@YourBankUSA.com that might appear on the email. If you have any doubts about the email, call the bank at a number you recognize to verify the email first.
Don’t answer unsolicited phone calls
Last week I received a phone call from someone claiming to be from one of my new banks. They said, “I really need to talk to you about your account, but first I need to verify your identity. What is your Social Security Number?” I was kind of stunned because I had just opened a new account with this bank and I thought maybe there is something wrong. But I said, “I don’t think
so” and hung up. Instead of giving out my personal information to an unknown caller, I looked up the 800 number I’ve been using for the bank and called them. Sure enough, there was a minor issue with my account and we resolved it (I think the bank rep needs a little more training in how to ask these kinds of questions over the phone).
The bottom line is to always be suspicious when you are contacted by phone or email about your personal finances unless you know the person on the other end (and it actually sounds like them, too). Never give out any personal information over the phone. Most banks and financial institutions will never ask you for this information. At most they may ask you to call the bank.
Do not email your date of birth, Social Security Number or Account Numbers to anyone
Unfortunately, we continue to receive this personal information from some people. Think of any email you send as a giant billboard on the Massachusetts Turnpike (or any other interstate highway) with your information. Email is normally not secure and can be read by anyone. Because email travels through anywhere from a handful to dozens of computers before it arrives at the recipient’s inbox, there are countless opportunities for a bad actor to intercept your information. If you must email this information, use an email encryption service so that it can only be viewed by the recipient.
Use two-factor authentication for all financial accounts
Two-factor authentication means that when you go to log in with your user name and password you have to verify your account through a second means, such as entering a code sent to your mobile phone or your email. This is one of the best ways to prevent hackers from guessing your password and accessing your account information.
Limit how much you share on social media
Unfortunately, most people use familiar and favorite words in their passwords—names of their children or pets, their home address, birthdays, etc. If you are sharing a lot of this information on social media, this makes it easy for hackers. Limit how much you share and only make your profile viewable by friends or close friends. In the early years of Facebook, unsuspecting posters would go off on a great vacation only to come home to find their house robbed because their posts basically told the criminals, “I’m out of town for a week having a great time”.
This is a partial list of how to protect yourself against criminals during their “high season.” Don’t be next. If you have questions about how to protect your accounts, give me a call or call TD Ameritrade at 888-354-8361. I’m here to help. You can schedule a quick call with me by clicking HERE.
Lyman H. Jackson
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