In today’s digital world, managing your life and finances is often as simple as clicking a few buttons on your laptop or smartphone. Unfortunately, it’s often almost just as easy for fraudsters to steal your identity and abuse your finances.
In fact, a recent study showed that fraud and identity theft are on the rise, up 16% from 2016 and costing consumers $16 billion dollars. Additionally, 2017 also set a new record for data breaches, with 1,339 financial cases on record.
Although no one is fully immune to the realities of fraud and identity theft, there are many things you can do to protect your family and UCCU can help!
Be Fraud Smart is a free, online resource that can keep your entire family informed about current scams, best practices to avoid fraud, and what you should do if you’ve fallen victim.
It’s all at uccu.com/BeFraudSmart right now.
In the meantime, here are a few steps you can take right now to protect your family and Be Fraud Smart.
HAVE STRONG AND UNIQUE PASSWORDS
The days of using “1234” or “password” as your password are over.
Each and every account you have should be protected by a unique password. An easy way to ensure that your passwords are safe and secure is by using a password manager smartphone app, which will generate unique and complex passwords, on demand, for all of your services and accounts while keeping your passwords safe and organized within the app’s secure vault.
Popular password manager apps include 1Password, Dashlane, mSecure, and LastPass. A popular password manager is also available within the Safari web browser.
APPLY UPDATES & PATCHES TIMELY
Most operating systems and smartphone applications alert you when updates need to be applied but some devices, like network (WiFi) routers, require you to check for updates to firmware without being alerted.
In some cases, older devices should be replaced. For example, older smartphones can easily fall into a “no longer supported” category, which means necessary security patches and updates are no longer being developed. Check with your phone manufacturer for more details.
KEEP YOUR ANTI-VIRUS SOFTWARE UP-TO-DATE
All of your personal computers should be running Windows 10 (if not, you should upgrade) and firewalls should be turned on. Additionally, Macintosh computers have become more of a target for viruses and malware than in the past.
MONITOR YOUR TRANSACTIONS
Log in to your accounts frequently to monitor account transaction details. If you have transaction accounts at different institutions, you can use UCCU’s 360-View Financial Aggregation which allows you to monitor and manage all your accounts with a single login.
FREEZE YOUR CREDIT
A credit freeze will prevent potential lenders from accessing your credit report (often for a price), stopping a thief from opening an account or getting credit, even if they have your personal information.
PLACE A FRAUD ALERT ON YOUR CREDIT REPORT
If you believe you are an identity theft victim or are at risk of becoming one, you can place a fraud alert on your credit report alerting potential lenders to verify the identity of anyone attempting to open an account in your name.
SIGN UP FOR CREDIT AND IDENTITY MONITORING SERVICES
Monitoring services watch for signs that an identity thief may be using your personal information. For example, identity monitoring services may alert you when your personal information shows up in:
- Change of address requests
- Court or arrest records
- Orders for new utility, cable, or wireless services
- Payday loan applications
- Check cashing requests
- Social media
- Websites that identity thieves use to trade stolen information
BE CAREFUL USING FREE WIFI
Most of us are so happy to find free WiFi when we’re out and about that we click past the Terms and Conditions without giving them much thought. But here’s something that should give us all pause: personal information that is sent or received through open wireless networks are typically susceptible to hacking with little to no effort.
Putting it another way: over 85% of all consumers may be putting their information at risk when using public WiFi. Be very careful when using any Free WiFi and always avoid sending any personal information over an open network.
NEVER WIRE MONEY TO SOMEONE YOU DON’T KNOW
It’s one of the oldest scams in the book because it works. Every year, trusting people send money to fraudsters for all kinds of phony reasons. It’s easy to believe it won’t happen to you and yet, millions of dollars are continuously lost to unsuspecting victims, simply because they believed they were doing the right thing by sending money to the wrong people.
So just don’t do it. Never, ever wire money to a stranger, even when that stranger claims to be acting in your best interests and especially when they use scare tactics to get you to pay up right now.
SAFEGUARD ALL OF YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION
“Phishing” is the practice of pretending to be a reputable company or organization in order to convince you to reveal passwords, credit card numbers, social security number, or other compromising information. And fraudsters love to go phishing.
The fact is, no reputable company or organization is going to contact you
and request or demand your personal information (such as credit card or social security numbers). If you receive a call and you’re not sure if it’s legitimate, simply hang up and call the company or organization back directly…after looking up and confirming the correct number on your own.
HYPERLINKS AND ATTACHMENTS
If you don’t know who the email is from, don’t open a hyperlink or attachment.
No reputable organization is going to contact you and ask you for your personal information–even if it looks like it’s from your bank or other financial organization.
SHOP SMART ONLINE
When shopping online, it’s best to stick with retailers and websites you know and trust. Before you shop with an unfamiliar site, do your research. Make sure it’s reputable prior to providing personal information.
If you install antivirus, firewall or spyware protection, be sure to turn the Auto-Update feature on so your software is always up to date against the most current threats.
KNOWLEDGE IS POWER
As fraudsters continue to create innovative and devious ways to steal our information, it’s up to each of us to keep ourselves safe. Just remember the old adage: knowledge is power.
Visit uccu.com/BeFraudSmart today.
UCCU Fraud Expert
Travis Clegg is a Certified Fraud Examiner who has dedicated over 23 years to protecting UCCU members from fraudters and leads a team of fraud protection experts that help members avoid and recover from fraud.
As a thought leader in fraud protection, Travis provides timely insights about how to protect yourself from current scams, so make it a habit to visit uccu.com/BeFraudSmart often to stay informed and up-to-date on all the latest fraud tactics.