Cybersecurity Tips for a Post COVID World
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month! Protecting your personal information online is an ongoing and challenging process, and one that only gets harder every year. Even before the pandemic taking precautions to secure your information online was a must. Now, well, if you weren’t taking precautions to protect yourself online before, it’s definitely time to start. You might think you’ve heard all the tips about how to stay safe online, but there’s always something to learn and the risks that come with complacency are far too high.
Since the pandemic began, we’ve all seen the massive shift of businesses now offering digital services, online ordering, etc. Everything seems to be moving online. You may have even noticed restaurants offering menus that can be accessed by scanning a QR code, and to make it easy- free wi-fi. But use caution when accessing any internet site on a public or shared wi-fi network. Your best bet is to limit your activities on public wi-fi to ones that don’t expose any of your personal information. Things like reading articles or news stories, checking for other local businesses, checking the weather, looking for an online coupon, browsing movie review sites, cooking sites, you get the idea.
Even when you’re using a secure internet connection, such as at home, you still need to be cautious and watch for potential threats. Scammers continuously look for new ways to trick people or steal their information. Recently we’ve seen things like online dating scams and personality quizzes that are designed to mine your data or trick you into giving up your bank account information. There have been scams related to mortgages and foreclosures too. You may suddenly get a notice that your mortgage will be serviced by a different financial institution as of a certain date with instructions on where to start sending your payments after that date. Many of these scams are very sophisticated and can appear to be legitimate. Your best bet is to never give anyone your personal or financial information, especially not online.
As with resetting passwords on existing accounts, when you create a new account online start with a strong, unique password. This cannot be stressed enough, and this tip will never go away. Too many people still use passwords that are related to their daily lives or are just way too easy to figure out. Also, many people use the same password with just a slight variation for other sites, making it even easier to hack into all of your accounts. Using a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, special characters, and numbers makes a password much harder for scammers to crack. Again, always keep all of your passwords written down and store them somewhere secure. Now, repeat after me, “NOT in my phone.” Your phone is not a safe, secure place to keep a list of all passwords.
If you begin to have too many passwords to manage you can look into using a password manager. A password manager can help by suggesting strong passwords for your accounts and storing all of them for you in a secure place. Here are some tips on creating strong passwords that you may find helpful.
With the holidays approaching and the online shopping frenzy on the horizon, remember to check the security certificate for online businesses before making a purchase. It’s almost impossible to avoid shopping online, and unfortunately even the most cautious user can become a victim if the website isn’t secure. E-commerce websites that are not secure are prime targets for scammers because it gives them an opportunity to strike at the point of purchase, grabbing everyone’s credit card information. When you visit a website, check the address bar at the top and make sure the web address begins with HTTPS instead of HTTP. The “S” stands for secure, indicating that the website has security measures in place to protect your information. You may see a padlock at the beginning of address. If you click on it, you should see a message stating that the website is secure and it will give you details about their security certificate. This is a guarantee that information sent between you and the company’s website cannot be intercepted by a hacker. If you really aren’t sure, you can check the safety of any website using Google’s Site Status Diagnostic Tool. Enter the web address for any site, and it will tell you if it’s potentially unsafe.
Be careful what you share online and on social media. There are many things we all know we shouldn’t share on social media, but there are many ways in which you could share information innocently that can lead to identity theft. Your identity, location, and date of birth could all potentially be exposed. Posting that you’re away on vacation, posting your child’s school or teacher, these are all things that can be dangerous to post online. If it’s something you really need to share, there are ways to control who can see your posts and you can even post to specific audiences.
Along with all of your other efforts, continue to monitor your accounts closely and keep requesting your free credit reports. Remember, you can get free weekly credit reports until April 2022. Take advantage of this. Also, your bank may have the option to set up purchase alerts. At Citizens Savings Bank, you can set up purchase alerts and our fraud detection center will notify you if any suspicious activity takes place in your account. During the holiday shopping season when we tend to make many more purchases than normal, be sure to check your accounts daily.
Looking ahead to 2022, one way to prevent identity theft is to file your taxes early if you can. We understand this isn’t always possible, but if it is you should do it. This can prevent someone from filing a false tax return in your name, which we’ve seen a lot of in recent years.
There are many things you can do to protect yourself and your personal information online. The key is to remember the basics while keeping alert to changes. Monitor all of your accounts and limit what you share online. You can keep up to date with the latest cybersecurity alerts too.
If you feel you may be a victim of identity theft or you suspect fraudulent activity on any of your personal accounts, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission to begin an investigation.
Citizens Savings Bank has multiple locations throughout Lackawanna, Wayne, and Monroe Counties. For branch locations and hours, visit our website. We also have a Customer Support Team ready to answer any questions you may have. Call us today at 1-800-692-6279 or email [email protected]. Member FDIC. Equal Housing Lender.