While you’re shopping for and exchanging gifts with loved ones, scammers and identity thieves are lurking in the background, waiting to take advantage of unwary consumers. At Lakewood Financial, we do our best to make sure your personal assets are covered by appropriate insurance. As a service, we’d like to remind you to reduce your risk of identity theft and credit card fraud by protecting your personal information with common sense precautions. To help you stay cyber safe this holiday season, here are a few tips, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and StaySafeOnline.org’s “Stop. Think. Connect.” campaign.
Be cautious about clicking links in emails, online advertising, posts, and tweets, especially when they originate with someone you don’t know. Cybercriminals often use bogus links to compromise your computer with malware. Make sure all your household’s computers, smart phones, or tablets are running the most current versions of software and apps. And if you haven’t already done so, install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall.
Watch out for offers that sound too good to be true, or that encourage you to act immediately. If you’re shopping a website that is new to you, check online reviews to make sure it’s legitimate and that previous customers have had positive experiences. Look for web addresses that start with “https,” and the “lock” icon on your browser’s status bar to indicate your personal information will be sent securely.
Be careful what you share on social networking sites. Too much information can give an identity thief the clues he needs to answer security questions that will give him access to your accounts. Don’t post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or any account numbers on publicly accessible sites.
Create strong passwords for your accounts by combining upper and lowercase letters with symbols. The FTC suggests thinking of a special phrase and using the first letter of each word as your password. You can also substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example: “I love to fish with my dad” could become 1L2fWmD. Use unique passwords for each account, and write them down someplace secure away from your computer.
Connecting to the Internet while out and about is a convenience—just be sure you adjust your security settings to keep others from accessing your personal information. If you must send personal information over public wi-fi, make sure to use a secure wireless network, not just an encrypted website. If the network isn’t secure, don’t visit bank accounts or your email—you could be opening the door to cybercriminals.
Use these tips to stay cyber safe this holiday season—and all year long. If you want to know more about protecting your personal information, please visit StaySafeOnline.org.
The staff of Lakewood Financial would like to wish you and your family a very happy and safe holiday season!