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Cyber Security & Protecting Your Financial Data

The prevalence of online banking and other financial transactions means the need for smart cyber security has never been more important. According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 1.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2020, and American consumers collectively lost more than $3.3 billion to fraud. So, what steps can you take to safeguard your information against scammers and identity thieves? Here is our Sound Advice for better cyber security and financial protection.

man typing in his password to log into his laptop

How to Protect Your Financial Data

Check your credit.

Ensure your identity hasn’t been stolen by keeping a close eye on your credit score. If someone has taken out a loan or credit card in your name and defaulted on payment, your score will likely go down. Each of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Equifax and Experian, are required by the government to provide a free copy of your credit report once a year. You can check your credit every four months and watch for any changes. Go to to request your report.
If you find any errors or suspect your identity has been stolen based on changes in your credit report, you can file a dispute with the credit-reporting bureau. You’ll want to move quickly.
To be more proactive, you can lock your credit. You can enroll in a program at each of the three credit bureaus. After you’re enrolled, you will have to call and unlock your report before you can open any new credit account, but that means no one besides you can take out loans or credit cards with your information.

Check your bank accounts often.

Go through your bank statements and credit card activity at least once a month. If there are any unauthorized purchases, call your bank immediately. The earlier you catch fraud, the easier it is to resolve the issue.
You can even sign up for alerts from your bank to tell you when money has been deposited in or withdrawn from your account. With these notices, you can act quickly if you discover fraud.

Don’t share answers to your security questions online.

Many people choose similar security questions for each of their financial accounts, but consider how easy it might be for a hacker to find the answers to your questions. One of your questions may be “What’s your mother’s maiden name?” When you tagged Mom on social media for Mother’s Day, was her full name on display? This sort of innocent — seemingly disconnected — action can make it easier for someone to access your accounts.

Use two-factor authentication.

Some financial institutions allow you to set up an extra step before you log in to the account. You provide your username and password. Then the software will send a randomly generated code to your phone or email, which you will input into the site to access your account. This quick added authentication can make it that much harder for someone to infiltrate your account illegally.

Enlist a secure password manager.

You probably know logically that you should use a different password for every account. Ideally, they’d be randomly generated passwords that are substantially harder to guess,  but remembering all that information is nearly impossible. An encrypted password management tool can store more than 20 logins and keep that information secure and easy for you to use.

Stay vigilant against scams.

Unfortunately, scammers are often pretty smart. By the time the word is out on one scam, several more have emerged. There are some tried-and-true guidelines that can help you identify scams before you provide important information.
If someone claiming to work for your bank, insurance company, the Social Security Administration, Medicare, or the Internal Revenue Service calls you with some sort of threatening message and tells you they need your identifying information to clear up the issue, hang up and call an officially listed number for that organization. Even if it seems to be a family member calling you and asking for money, hang up and call them back with the phone number you already have.
Don’t pledge money over the phone or from a source you don’t recognize. Scammers often depend on creating a sense of panic so their target acts quickly, without doing any research. Be suspicious of anyone who reaches out to you unprompted and wants you to immediately make a financial decision or provide personal details.

Shred financial statements that come in the mail.

People who receive important statements or updates on their financial accounts through the mail may want to invest in a shredder. Believe it or not, there are people who will go through your trash or recycling to uncover financial information provided in discarded documents. They may make use of any credit card preapproval letters you receive or blank checks that come with credit card statements. Shredding makes it more challenging for thieves to piece together your account numbers. You can even put part of the shredded document in the recycling and part in the trash to make it harder for them to complete the full document.

Lock up your online shopping.

Online shopping is a fact of modern life, so you want to know what to look for to shop confidently. Before providing any credit card numbers or other financial information, look in the web address bar at the top of your browser window and make sure you see an icon of a padlock. This icon means the website has a secure channel of communication between the browser and its server. The website has been encrypted with Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), which you’ll often find abbreviated at the beginning of the web address. While this icon doesn’t absolutely mean the site wasn’t created by a scammer, it’s a good place to start.

Keep your software up to date on your computer, tablet, and phone.

Computer updates often come with antivirus and antimalware software updates. These improvements are usually fixing loopholes or blind spots that scammers are trying to exploit, so start the update as quickly as possible.

Don’t use public wireless networks.

When you’re using Wi-Fi that doesn’t require a password, like those at a café or a library, your personal information is more exposed. Hackers can position themselves between you and the connection point and route any information you send to their computer. Only open your financial accounts at home, while attached to your personal password-protected wireless network to make it significantly harder for someone to gain access to your information.

Clear your information from shared computers.

If you need to use a shared computer, like you’d find at a library, make sure you clear the cache and the browser history before you sign off. This way, the computer won’t save short-term information about your recent actions.
Whether you’re protecting yourself or your small business, the more you know about cyber security and financial protection, the safer you’ll be in any situation. At First National Bank and Trust, we know protecting your personal data is crucial. If you’d like to find out more about the many ways we protect your accounts and financial information, reach out to us. A member of our team would be happy to tell you more.

Read more about protecting yourself from cybercrimes in Top Cybersecurity Threats To Avoid.