Protecting Yourself from Online Fraud & Identity Theft

August 16, 2017

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We live in an increasingly connected world today and protecting your personal and financial information from threats online is critical.  In 2016, 15.4 million consumers were victims of identity theft or fraud, according to a new report from Javelin Strategy & Research.  By making some simple changes you can significantly reduce your risk of exposure.

  1. Password Management – Change your password to a complex string of characters using more than just numbers and letters. Financial firms usually allow longer passwords which will enhance the security on your accounts.  It’s a good idea to vary the ID/password at each institution.  This will isolate the risk if your information is stolen and help to keep other accounts open while resolving any issues.
  1. Utilize 2-Factor Authentication – Enable two-factor authentication on all financial accounts (bank, investment, credit). This process initiates a different code to your phone or electronic device each time you login to your account. This eliminates the risk of just an ID/password being compromised.  Most financial institutions today offer this, but you usually must request or enable to function yourself.
  1. Use a Specific Device for All Financial Transactions (no email or web browsing) – The primary way an attack is carried out is by the use of email usually in the form of a link or attachment that seems innocent. Before you realize it, the attacker has placed malware on your device to capture login credentials, encrypted your data (ransomware) or hijacked your device for later use in another attack.  By identifying one device as a “financial transactions only” device you can have confidence that malware or an unsecure website will not expose you to unnecessary risks.  At a minimum, you should always use secured wifi connections for all financial transaction  Don’t risk your financial information over any public wifi network.
  1. Freeze Your Credit – The last consideration is to place a freeze on your credit with all three major credit bureaus. This will not hurt your credit, but will prevent someone from obtaining credit fraudulently in your name.  It can be a small hassle when you need to add credit but it is definitely worth the trouble.

By making these small changes, your risk of compromise will drop dramatically but will not be eliminated.  You must remain aware and vigilant at all times in order to protect yourself.

“Protecting Yourself from Online Fraud & Identity Theft” was published in the August 2017 issue of Life on the Green magazine, a social publication for the residents surrounding The Woodlands, Country Club, Player Course, where Dan is a resident and is a featured monthly contributor.