- Shred documents containing account numbers or your Social Security number, such as bank statements, check stubs, expired credit cards, and preapproved credit card solicitations.
- Safely store personal documents, especially if you live in a shared apartment, dorm, sorority or fraternity house.
- Only carry the ID and bank cards you actually need. Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet.
- Drop outgoing mail in a secure post office box rather than in your home mailbox.
Arm Your Computer/Smartphone/Tablet
- Protect your computer data with firewalls and anti-virus software, and keep it updated.
- Set your system to update automatically with software updates or patches.
- Secure your wireless network with a password.
- Avoid accessing your bank account or shopping online when using public computers or public wireless networks.
- Create passwords with a mix of characters and numbers that are not easy for others to guess. Your online banking password should be different from other passwords.
- Do not circumvent vendor security controls on your mobile phone or tablet.
- Log out after a mobile or PC banking session.
- Protect your mobile device with a password.
- Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or your Social Security number on a mobile device or PC.
Protect Your Passwords
Create long and unique passwords
While it may make your life easier, using common passwords like “password,” “123456” and “qwerty,” also make a hacker’s life easier. Passwords should strike the right balance between being easy to remember and hard for intruders to hack. Similarly, avoid reusing passwords for multiple accounts. If that one password is compromised, then all of your accounts could be compromised.
Length and complexity are both important. According to security.org, it would take a computer about 19 minutes to crack a random assortment of letters and characters such as “$%tf8m1.” On the other hand, the phrase “Jackandjillranupthehill” is estimated to take a computer two sextillion years to crack. Using a phrase makes remembering passwords easier as well!
Avoid using personal information in your passwords
Passwords, including your birthday or child’s name, may be easy to remember but they are also easy to crack. Many pieces of personal information can be learned through a quick search of your social media accounts. Instead, use something that is not personal or obvious.
Use two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication is the process in which a website or program may require two forms of identity verification before allowing you to log in. These could be a normal password plus a code that is texted to your phone or sent in an email. This extra step may seem tedious, but it goes a long way in protecting you from potential hackers who may move on to find an easier target.
Use a password manager
Let’s face it, we need a password for accessing nearly everything from online stores to downloading apps. We can’t possibly remember the passwords for every account we have. A password manager stores your passwords and saves you from having to remember and enter each one every time you visit a password protected site.
Most password managers use military-grade encryption and zero-knowledge architecture. This means that there’s no way to decipher your database even if someone breaks into it. Do your research, and select a password manager from a reputable company.
Don’t wait to make your accounts more secure. Set a goal to strengthen each password as you log in to various accounts.
- Never provide personal information, such as your Social Security number, passwords, bank account or card numbers, in response to a text, phone call or email, regardless of how official it may seem.
- Provide your Social Security number only when necessary.
- Review your credit report at least once a year.
- Review account statements regularly to ensure all charges are accurate.
Safe Online Shopping
- Make sure your security software is up to date to protect against viruses and spyware, which may be lurking in email offers or unfamiliar shopping sites.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi or public computers for online shopping. These networks may not be secure.
- Before entering payment information, check for the plural URL “https:” or a picture of a closed gold lock or unbroken key icon, indicating a secure webpage.
- Carefully review offers for name-brand items at significantly reduced pricing. Before purchasing from an unfamiliar website, check the Better Business Bureau online tool at www.bbb.org/search to review any complaints against the company.
- Be cautious when opening emails with links to a “special” offer. The email could be leading you to a bogus website or infectious computer virus.
- Limit online purchases to one card and carefully review activity on statements.
- If required to create a store login, avoid using the same login and password used for online banking.
- Decline the option of saving payment information for future purchases. While this may be convenient, it unnecessarily puts card information at risk.
- Use a separate email address for online shopping confirmations to avoid unwanted spam in your primary email box.
- Save or print order confirmations containing the details of the order until the package arrives. Follow package tracking information to be aware of any delays in shipping.