Nervous about cybersecurity? You’re not alone. It seems like every day a new company or government organization falls prey to crafty online criminals looking to steal information and leverage oversights in digital security. There are easily millions of personal identity theft attempts occurring weekly right here in the United States – and hundreds, if not thousands of them, are successful.
A compromised identity can lead to anything from a minor convenience to a major financial setback until you’re able to make things right. But one thing’s for sure: losing control of your identity once means you’ll never be quite certain it’s secure again.
Here are three easy steps that you should implement in your online day-to-day that can stop all but the most experienced hackers and scammers.
1. Implement Two-Step Verification Across Your Accounts
We recommend this step because few things are so powerful in stopping would-be identity thieves in their steps. Nearly every account you may have, from email to Facebook, Carter Bank & Trust to Amazon, has the ability to add two-step verification to its login process when a new login is attempted. Put simply, when your login is entered for the first time on a new device, a secret code is requested that’s sent only to your phone – something hackers will rarely also have access to.
Not only will you get an extra layer of security, you’ll also get an early warning system. If you get a security code you didn’t request, you’ll know it’s time to change log-in information on your accounts.
2. Email and Text Carefully
The headlines are full of organizations whose whole systems were breached due to an email-based phishing scam, but it’s worth noting that, by itself, an email can’t do anything to your computer just by showing up in your inbox. Where the danger starts is clicking on links, opening attachments, or replying with requested information. Learn a few “failsafe” rules now to save yourself heartache later:
- Never open links or attachments that weren’t anticipated
- Remember that financial institutions will never send you “urgent” emails or ask you to electronically provide information you’ve already given them in person or over the phone
- Remember that when transmitting documents electronically, it’s always more secure to upload them to a secure website than via email. Banks should ask you to send sensitive information over as an attachment, but they may ask you to upload via a browser that’s marked “HTTPS” in your browser and usually branded with their logo. If you’re not comfortable with this, they’ll gladly wait to take copies in person!
3. Limit Your Email Exposure
For most folks, your email serves as your log-in to the entire internet. As such, be wary of who you give it out to. Don’t use it to sign up for coupons or for one-time purchases, or subscribe to newsletters or email updates. Many of these sites may have good intentions but are far too frequently the victims of hacking themselves, which exposes your email, too. They may also give your email to third parties who can use your email address for more nefarious purposes than just bombarding you with spam.
Instead, have a “junk” email that you use for commercial purposes but is entirely unattached to any banking or financial accounts. You’ll be able to sign up in peace, knowing that your “real” email is never exposed.
The internet is a wonderfully powerful tool, but unfortunately, it exposes you to a new level of crooks. A little bit of smart caution, though, can protect you from nearly all of them – and for the serious ones, Carter Bank & Trust is prepared to keep your account secure and reduce or even eliminate your liability in case financial information is compromised. Talk to us today and see how a hometown bank can keep you safe while bringing you all the benefits of the 21st century, like online banking, secure person-to-person transfers through Zelle®and more.