It seems that every other day we hear about online security breaches experienced by major companies, from Yahoo to JP Morgan Chase, and even the IRS. As we rely heavily on the Internet to conduct financial transactions and manage our accounts, we can expect these events to continue. In fact, tracked data breaches in 2016 increased 40% from the year before, with over 1000 disclosed. Since your personal information is owned by companies who store their information online and in their databases, it’s impossible to avoid these situations entirely. But don’t let yourself think that there’s nothing you can do to protect yourself from hackers. Here are some practical steps you can take to ensure that your personal information and hard-earned money are as secure as possible.
Change Your Passwords
I know you hear this all the time, but how often do you make an effort to update your usernames and passwords? Many people reuse the same password for multiple accounts, which puts you at a higher risk of having your information stolen. If hackers can get a hold of one password, they may obtain access to even more of your information.
Ideally, passwords should be at least eight characters and include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. It’s also wise to make your password a random assortment of these characters instead of a known word that can be found in the dictionary.
And don’t forget about your security questions. Make sure they are tough enough that only you know the answers to the questions. Don’t use answers that can easily be found on your social media sites, such as birthplace or schools.
Screen Your Emails
Phishing scams show up in your inbox regularly, even if you’ve applied stringent security settings to your email account. If an email sneaks in that looks like it is from a financial institution, do not click on any of the links or open any attachments. Most financial institutions will send you a secure message through your account rather than a direct email. Delete the email or report it to your provider.
Use An App
Mobile devices are generally safer to use than desktop or laptop computers. It is much harder for hackers to install malware on a phone or tablet, so as long as you are using a secure Wi-Fi network or your cellular data connection, you can safeguard your accounts in this way. There is no guarantee against hackers, but this step will provide you with a bit more protection.
If you must use a computer to access your accounts, avoid using public computers, always log out, and clear your history on a regular basis.
Review Your Accounts Regularly
If you don’t frequently inspect your bank statements, credit card transactions, or credit reports, you may not realize your identity has been compromised until it’s too late. Make it a habit to review this information and check for unknown line items or irregularities. Your credit report will also alert you to any problems by showing all your personal information and lines of credit. If you see anything amiss in these reports, it’s possible your identity has been stolen. You can get three free credit reports a year fromannualcreditreport.com and a free TransUnion report once a week fromcreditkarma.com.
Many financial institutions also offer customizable notifications. You can choose to receive notifications for transactions placed outside of your geographical area, purchases above certain amounts, or instances when your credit card is used without the card being present. Take advantage of these options to control the use of your accounts.
Invest In A Shredder
How many times have you thrown away or recycled something that includes your personal information? Many of us do this without even thinking of the consequences. Shred anything that contains your data; even credit card offers that come in the mail, past financial or tax information. It’s not difficult for people to dumpster dive or get their hands on these documents, so buy a shredder and dispose of these documents securely.
Be Extra Alert During Tax Season
Scammers are out in full force at tax time, often impersonating the IRS in order to obtain your information and your money. Beware of any requests for payments and avoid downloading any software or attachments that arrive through email. If you receive anything from the IRS that you are unsure about, contact them at 1-800-366-4484 to verify its authenticity.
You work hard to earn your money and protect your privacy, and it is my goal to work with you to safeguard these critical aspects of your life. Take heed when dealing with emails or phone calls that have anything to do with your finances and be vigilant with your online security. If you want to learn more about protecting and shielding yourself from hackers, please don’t hesitate to contact me today at (949) 631-3840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Jim Peters
Jim Peters is an independent financial advisor and the founder of Grace Wealth Management Group, Inc., a full-service financial firm committed to helping people pursue their financial goals. With more than 24 years of experience in the industry, Jim combines his extensive knowledge with his genuine interest in helping people pursue financial independence. Beyond his experience, he is certified as both a Chartered Life Underwriter® (CLU®) and Chartered Financial Consultant® (ChFC®), meaning he has advanced training and knowledge in financial planning and insurance. Based in Irvine, California, Jim specializes in working with individuals, families, and businesses throughout Orange County. To learn more, connect with Jim onLinkedIn or visitwww.financialadvisorirvine.com.