This time of year, scams seem to come out in the masses, trying to entice you to give up personal information whether by phone or email. In today’s day and age, your smartphone is no different than your desktop or laptop computer. So much can be done with the touch of a finger, but remember, your personal information needs to stay protected, no matter what device you use.
Some friendly tips to remember (and not just during the holiday season):
- Keep your software current and if an update is available, install as quickly as possible. Most computers and phones can be set to auto-install when available. Check your settings.
- Use strong passwords. A minimum of 12 characters, using uppercase and lowercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters. Most sites like to use dual authentication these days – entering in a numerical code or confirming by your cell phone. Other sites might force you to change your password every 90-180 days. Use a trusted password keeper to assist you, if needed.
- Disable your wireless abilities (think Bluetooth) when not in use.
- Cover your laptop’s webcam when not in use.
- Encrypt or password protect your files to keep anyone from seeing the data, even if they have access to it.
- Avoid doing any business or checking financial accounts when connected to Wi-Fi. If anyone can connect to the “free Wi-Fi,” more than likely someone is lurking in the background waiting for an opportunity.
- Use secure websites that start with “https,” NOT http.
- Antivirus software and firewalls are very important – make sure this is part of your protection.
The old saying “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true” still holds today – if your personal information is needed to access the offer, STOP.
- Limit your personal information that you share online – this includes maiden names, where you went to high school (one of the most common security questions asked is what was your high school mascot), birthdates, etc. Check your privacy settings on social networks and make sure your location features are turned off.
- If you are called by someone claiming to be your credit card company or another service you use and they want access to your computer, hang up the phone. If your credit card company is calling you about an unauthorized transaction, you don’t need to give them access to your computer. You need to hang up and call the credit card company directly and inquire about the mysterious charge. No one should have access to your computer but you and your IT support.
- Hover over email addresses that are asking you for personal information – most of the time, you can tell that it is not a legitimate address from Apple or Microsoft, and someone is trying to get you to click on a link that will expose your information.
You can have all these in place and still be compromised. So what do you do if you have been involved in a security breach?
- Look for strange activity on your credit report (denied accounts, opened accounts, suspicious charges), posts that you didn’t make on your social media, emails not received.
- Turn off the affected device.
- Contact banks, credit cards, financial institutions as well as the credit bureaus to put freezes on your credit history. If your Medicare number was compromised, contact Social Security immediately.
- File a report with the local police.
For more information on the topic of cybersecurity, see these posts from the P&A blog:
- Your cybersecurity – May 25, 2021
- Protecting our senior investors – September 11, 2019
- Cybersecurity & identity theft – October 22, 2018
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