In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we’re sharing information that we hope you’ll find helpful in keeping your personal data safe, both online and in your every day life.
Ask a group of friends how secure they feel from identity theft and you’ll likely get mixed reactions. Some feel perfectly safe sharing information, especially if they receive benefits such as discounts and rewards or simply the convenience of not having to re-enter information with each transaction. But, others may feel overly suspicious and hesitate to share personal information, even when securities are in place.
According to a recent study, more than 15 million U.S. consumers were victims of identity theft in 2016, up from nearly 2.4 million victims in 2015. As identity theft continues to be a major threat, First Financial Bank is offering tips to help you proactively protect your information from identity thieves.
Here are 10 tips for keeping your safe:
- Don’t share personal information. Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. We, and other trusted financial institutions, do not contact you directly and ask for such information. Yes, if you contact us we may ask for certain information to verify your identity, but alarm bells should ring if you receive an unexpected call or email asking for personal data.
- Protect your PINs and passwords. It’s important to create numbers that you will remember but writing them down or sharing them, even among friends, can compromise your security. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. It may be tempting to use the same password for all your accounts but try to vary some portion of it.
- Shred sensitive papers. Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away. It’s easy to toss them into your recycling bin but keep in mind, that paper trash is often sorted before recycled, increasing your exposure. Don’t have a shredder? Take advantage of a free community shredding day. (Does FFB sponsor those? If so, we can put a plug here for it.)
- Consider your mailbox and open door. Raising the flag on your mailbox can be an invitation to identity thieves. Mail payments or documents containing personal information from the post office or public mailboxes that can’t be tampered with. Also, keep an eye out for missing mail. If your monthly credit card or bank statement feels like it’s late, check on it. Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen.
- Combine online banking with mobile alerts. It may feel contrary, but online banking is considered a more secure option for data protection because of built in safeguards. Not only does online banking offer convenience, it also allows you to monitor your accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. You can even sign up for mobile alerts for when your account balance goes below a certain amount or a transaction goes through. Learn more about mobile alerts here.
- Monitor your credit report. Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com.
- Protect your computer. Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. Also make sure you log out of websites, not just close browser windows, especially on sites that contain your personal information.
- Protect your mobile device. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other mobile devices. While it may feel a bit inconvenient at times, this will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it clean using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.
- Be careful when downloading apps. There’s an app for nearly everything that can make life easier. But use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially for senders you don’t know. If you have an Android phone, go to Google Play and if you have an iPhone, visit the Apple App Store. There are also third-party platforms not controlled by a mobile provider, such as the Amazon App Store.
- Don’t hesitate if you’re suspicious. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. Don’t worry about being embarrassed if you’re wrong. In today’s world, the adage, “Better safe than sorry” has never been more important. Visit a banking center or call our Client Service Center at 877-322-9530 during business hours to report suspcious activity.
With the right mix of tools and an antenna up for the unusual, you can take proactive steps to better guard yourself from identity theft or other data compromises.