In today’s society, terms such as “identity theft,” “security breach,” and “fraudulent activity” are now considered the norm. New cyber threats and methods to gain access to your personal and business information arise every day, making it difficult to know whether or not your financial information is safe.
Protecting your personal information can help reduce your risk of identity theft. Every time you are asked for your personal information, think about whether you can really trust the request.
The following are effective practices you can follow to protect your financial information:
- Provide your personal information over encrypted websites only. Whether you’re doing online shopping or banking, only use sites with encryption to protect your information as it travels from your computer to their server. Encrypted websites contain the “https” at the beginning of the web address—with the “s” meaning secure. Some websites use encryption only on the sign-in page, but if any part of your session isn’t encrypted, then the entire account and your financial information could be vulnerable to identity theft or hacking.
- Protect your passwords. The longer your password is, the more difficult it is to crack. Use at least 10 to 12 characters, mixing letters, numbers, and special characters. Do not try to be predictable, such as using your birthdate, name, or common words and numbers associated with you. If your password is stolen, it can be potentially used to take over all your accounts. Avoid sharing passwords on your cell phone, through texts, e-mail, or through social media messaging. Keep in mind, legitimate companies do not send you messages asking for your password. If you do get such a message, then it is most likely a scam.
- Maintain your computer security. Security software packages and personal firewalls are necessary if you engage in online financial transactions. Ensure that your computer has up-to-date security, equipped with security patches that are configured for automatic updates. Public computers may possess software which captures passwords and PINs, making your information accessible to others. If you ever use another computer, be sure to delete your “Temporary Internet Files” or “Cache.” Furthermore, clear all of your histories as soon as you log off your account. Always double-check to make sure that you’ve performed those steps.
- Do not respond to emails requesting personal information. To repeat, legitimate companies do not ask you to provide or verify sensitive information through email. Do not respond to emails, including “phishing” emails, seeking your password, PIN, or other personal information. If your financial institution actually requests personal information from you or your statement, call the company yourself instead of emailing them.
- Ignore unknown phone calls – In regard to phone calls, scammers can manipulate their number to make it appear like it’s coming from a particular company. If you encounter a number which looks suspect, just simply ignore the call and block the number. If you happen to accidentally pick up, hang up the phone as soon as the person on the other end asks for information.
- Monitor your credit – Since so much sensitive information has been compromised recently (e.g. the Equifax breach), monitoring your credit regularly is of utmost importance. At a basic level, you should be aware of your credit score and keep an eye out for any sort of drastic change. If you’re not confident in keeping tabs on it yourself, you can sign up for a credit monitoring agency such as LifeLock. These types of companies will alert you anytime there is any suspicious credit activity under your name.
If you have experienced a breach of your financial information or a violation of your rights in Illinois, request a free consultation with our experienced consumer attorney at Atlas Consumer Law today.