7 Tips to Protect your Data Online
Though the internet has many advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. The American Banker's Association offers the following tips to help consumers safeguard their information online.
- Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
- Set strong passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters.
- Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams are fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.
- Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother's maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
- Secure internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it.
- Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
Tech Support Scams
In a recent twist, scam artists are using the phone to try to break into your computer. They call, claiming to be computer techs associated with well-known companies like Microsoft. They say they have detected viruses or other malware on your computer to trick you into giving them remote access or paying for software you don't need.
These scammers take advantage of your reasonable concerns about viruses and other threats. They know computer users have heard time and again that it is important to install security software. But the purpose behind their elaborate scheme isn't to protect your computer, it is to make money.
If you get a call from someone who claims to be tech support person, hang up and call the company yourself on a phone number you know to be genuine. A caller who creates a sense of urgency or uses high-pressure tactics is probably a scam artist.
If you think you may have downloaded malware from a scam site or allowed a cyber criminal to access your computer, don't panic. Instead:
- Get rid of malware by updating or downloading legitimate security software and scan your computer. Delete anything it identifies as problems.
- Change any passwords that you gave out. If you use these passwords for other accounts, change those accounts too.
- If you paid for bogus services with a credit card, call your credit card provider and ask to reverse the charges. Check your statement for any other charges you didn't make, and ask to reverse those too.
- If you believe that someone may have accessed your personal financial information, visit the FTC's identity theft website. You can minimize your risk of further damage and repair any problems already in place.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication. REMEMBER: The IRS Doesn't initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media changes to request personal or financial information. In addition, the IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment or other enforcement action. Being able to recognize these telltale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim.