Happy April Fool’s Day—a whole day dedicated to practical jokes, funny pranks and endless laughter! While April Fool’s pranks are all fun and games, being a fool about your finances is never a laughing matter. Unfortunately, in today’s world, you must always be careful about your finances, making sure your account information and identity remain secure. Here are a few simple ways to make sure you’re never a fool about your finances, and that your personal information stays safe at all times.
Don’t be naive to scammers
As much as we hate to admit it, scammers exist, and will try to steal your personal information any chance they can get. Scammers in the United States and around the world defraud millions of people each year—some of who are not even aware they have been the victim of fraud. In order to keep your information safe and stay free of fraud, never give out your personal information over the Internet, phone, mail or text message, unless you know exactly who will be receiving it and what it is for. Bottom line, never send money to someone you don’t know—not to an online seller you’ve never heard of, or a telemarketer who swears their product will change your life. If you don’t know them, don’t send them money.
“You must also be careful about clicking on unknown links or sources you are sent via email,” explains Two Rivers Bank & Trust Information Security Officer Sean Allworth. “Only open an attachment when you know what it is, or are able to verify the source it is being sent from. If you ever have any questions about a source’s validity, don’t be afraid to contact the company directly for more information.”
Fortify your passwords
To keep your accounts from being hacked, you must make sure your passwords are strong. Many professional hackers use online software to run combinations of numbers and letters until they find the correct one. In order to make your passwords “unhackable”, they must be longer than four characters, and should contain a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Never use a string of letters or numbers, such as “123456” or “qwerty”, as these are typically the first combinations hacking programs look for. To keep track of all your passwords, use a password manager to safely store all your passwords in one convenient location—such as Dashlane.com, or Roboform.com.
Secure your security questions
Just like your passwords, you must also put similar thought and time into crafting your security questions. A good security question will have the following characteristics:
Security questions to avoid:
“In general, you should never use information for your security questions or passwords that could be found on your social media profiles,” explains Allworth. “Be careful not to over expose yourself online, and always keep in mind the information you have made public when developing passwords or security questions.”
Use a secret email address
A great solution to keeping your financial information in one secure location, is to set up a separate email address that you use only for banking or online shopping purposes. Creating a separate email account for financials helps you avoid spam, protects you against fraud and allows you to better manage your money. To further increase your security, be sure to delete any emails that include passwords or personal information as soon as you are done using them.
Set up log in notifications
Today’s technology allows you to receive notifications directly on your smart phone or email any time an unrecognized IP address logs in to your account. You can also sign up to receive notifications any time there is suspicious activity on your account—like purchases in another state or larger than normal purchases. These notifications alert you of a problem, and allow you to contact your bank to address the problem as soon as possible.
While you can’t always prevent an online hack, you can utilize the resources available to you to act quickly and re-secure your account and personal information as soon as possible. For more information about online account security, or to learn more about our online banking options, contact us today.