If you’re like most Americans, you’re online every day. And some of that online activity might include checking bank accounts, paying bills and purchasing items.
Unfortunately, this leaves you susceptible to cyber intruders and thieves, who are always looking for ways to steal sensitive financial and personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account and credit card information. Once they get it, they use it to assume their victims’ identities and make illegal transactions. Known as identity theft, this crime ensnares thousands of people daily and creates major havoc in their lives.
But there are ways to protect yourself when online. One of the best ways is to monitor your financial activity frequently. Experts recommend checking your bank account online at least once a week, and preferably more often. The same goes for credit card and debit card activity, especially if you use your cards on a regular basis.
Be on the lookout for suspicious or unauthorized charges, no matter how small. In fact, cyber thieves who have access to accounts will try to “sneak” small transactions by victims to see if they’re paying attention to their account activity. If they aren’t, the crooks will pursue more big-ticket purchases that could amount to hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Here are some other ways to arm yourself in the cyber world:
- Change passwords at least once a month. And use strong passwords that include a combination of numbers, letters and symbols.
- Avoid saving passwords on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
- Do not use personal information when choosing usernames, passwords or answers to security questions, especially if this information can be easily found by others online, such as on a Facebook page.
- Never share passwords or PINs with others.
- Don’t use a public computer or public Wi-Fi to access your financial institution’s website for online banking, review credit card activity, or make credit card or other bill payments.
- Install and/or update anti-virus software on your computer.
- Secure your desktop computer, laptop, tablet and mobile phone with passwords.
- Log off of your computer when not in use and close your browser and sensitive apps before going offline.
- Password-protect your Wi-Fi service at home.
- Don’t open e-mails or attachments from unknown sources, since these are ways cyber thieves use to access information on your computer.
You can find additional information about identity theft and ways to avoid it on the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team website (an official site of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) by clicking here.