The convenience of shopping, banking, donating, booking travel, and interacting online opens us to a world of opportunities. However, the prevalence of sharing sensitive information online also opens up the risk of identity theft and other hacking attempts. Protecting your cybersecurity is key.
As technology becomes more sophisticated, so do the abilities of hackers and other would-be bad actors. It’s more important than ever to approach our web-based activity with a bit of caution.
Trusted financial institutions and wealth management advisors, including Domani Wealth, are already using top-of-the-line security measures to protect their clients’ data (and at Domani Wealth, it’s part of our core value of discretion!), but what about the accounts and apps you manage? The good news is there are simple things you can do proactively to protect your identity and assets to practice good cybersecurity.
General Tips & Best Practices for Cybersecurity
Protecting your digital identity begins with being vigilant about all your online accounts, not just those associated with a financial institution. For instance, hackers can mine data from a variety of resources in order to open fraudulent credit card accounts. No matter how often you’re online, you should be aware of the following safety measures:
Phishing emails and texts—messages that, at first glance, look official—are pervasive, and they are getting smarter. Sometimes phishing emails are obvious; for example, maybe you get an email about your Verizon bill being late—only you’re a TMobile user. Aha! Caught ya! Other times, it’s a less obvious fake because these scam emails come under the guise of some of the most common companies. If you get an email or text from what appears to be Amazon, PayPal, UPS, Netflix, or any other service you actually use, don’t click on any link inside the email. (Especially if anything is slightly off about the content.) Instead, navigate to the website itself and log into your account. Any message the actual company sent you via text or email is likely information that’s also available in your account.
While this is perhaps one of the most common pieces of advice surrounding cybersecurity, it’s admittedly something many people overlook—and it’s understandable why. After all, remembering individual login details for dozens of apps, websites, and accounts can be daunting. We can all fall easily into the trap of using a “catch-all” password, one we’re comfortable with, and that’s easy to remember. Still, it’s highly recommended to use a unique password for each website, platform, or service. Otherwise, a data breach of information at one website could inadvertently provide bad actors access to many accounts.
To get around the issue of constantly creating, memorizing, and re-memorizing login credentials, consider a digital password manager tool. These services—such as LastPass, Keeper, 1Password, and Bitwarden—offer a seamless way to safely store usernames, passwords, and other login details.
Those games on Facebook, the ones that reveal a fun new name based on the street you grew up on, the month you were born, your pet’s name, and other bits of personal trivia? These may look innocent, but they can often be fodder for fishy activity. But you don’t always have to volunteer this information for it to fall into the wrong hands: “people search” type websites are also ripe with sensitive information—or enough clues for hackers to piece together to guess at a password reset security question. Be mindful of what information exists about you online; there are some reputable services available that can help scrub the web of these details.
Social media does some good, most notably keeping up with friends and family members—all those pictures and milestone moments! But accidentally oversharing can leave you vulnerable to determined hackers. Most social media platforms have varying levels of access and visibility, from completely public-facing to totally private. For example, Facebook allows you to limit who can see your posts: everyone, friends only, or even a list of specific people. Give yourself a privacy check-up on the platforms you use regularly; there’s often a “view as” feature which allows you to experience exactly how others see your profile.
This is a protective measure that’s becoming a lot more common for cybersecurity. Many websites, apps, and services will give you an option to choose a two-factor or multi-factor authentication. This means that entering your username and password upon login isn’t enough; you might also get a code by text, email, or even a phone call that you will use to prove it’s really you. It’s worth noting that this process can seem inconvenient—especially if you’re traveling or don’t have access to a secondary device/account to receive the authentication message. Still, it’s a safety measure that indeed keeps the bad guys out.
Last but not least, you can’t forget about your device itself. If you own a smartphone or tablet, you likely use it for everything: pictures, payments, and passing the time. Be sure to use your device’s built-in security and back-up features. As device technology evolves, security measures will continue to evolve with it. For instance, using a password to unlock a screen was once the norm, but now users can also opt for fingerprint scans or facial recognition.
Online Banking, Credit Card & Financial Management Tips for Cybersecurity
So far, we discussed general tips for keeping your identity safe across the web and devices. We’ll wrap up this post with additional tips more specific to financial accounts.
Generally speaking, banks, credit unions, mortgage lenders, credit card companies, and other financial institutions—as well as ecommerce websites—offer security measures for their customers, some required, some optional. We recommend maximizing these provided safety features for ultimate protection.
Pesky text messages at inopportune times aren’t fun. But real-time notifications are a game-changer. Before online banking, it was harder to spot fraudulent transactions—and it also took longer. You might have to wait until your monthly statement arrives in the mail to notice something off. Today, around-the-clock access to transaction history helps us keep a closer eye on our financial health. Instant text, email, and phone call alerts add a layer of security.
Enable other notifications for cybersecurity.
Aside from fraud alerts, your bank might offer an array of instances for which you can receive an instant email and/or text notification, including a failed login attempt, a password change, or when your balance hits a certain level. Setting up these notifications can give you incredible peace of mind.
Give yourself an allowance. Sort of. Another way to prevent excessive fraudulent charges (or even misuse by others who might have access to your account) is to set daily withdrawal limits on your bank account or daily spending limits on a credit card. If you’re planning to make a significant purchase, like new appliances or airline tickets, you can always contact your institution to make an exception for a specific day.
If you access your accounts from your smartphone, always use the most up-to-date version of your bank or financial institution’s app. While there could be many months between major software upgrades, many organizations constantly release small-yet-important updates that improve usability and tighten security.
Many online banking and credit card accounts now come standard with credit report monitoring, so it’s easier than ever to keep an eye on your collective credit history. If you’re in a solid place financially, it might not always be top of mind to take a peek at your credit score or scan through your report summary. However, for the sake of protecting your assets, it’s worthwhile to check all three agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) regularly, especially for any new accounts or inquiries that you didn’t open or initiate.
Whether required by law or driven by professional ethics, online platforms generally do all they can to protect customer and client data for cybersecurity reasons. Still, some of this responsibility lies in the users themselves. Be sure to keep yourself, your data, and your assets safe by using the most current software, recommended security features, and password best practices.
Further reading: The FDIC has a page on its website dedicated to consumer safety and cybersecurity, which offers a wealth of information on identity theft, fraud, and more.
If you want to be assured you’re working with a firm that takes your privacy and security seriously, seeking out a fiduciary such as Domani Wealth is key. Businesses like ours are regulated to require advisors to act in the best interest of our clients – you’ll find many financial advisors and institutions aren’t held to the same standard. If you’d like to start a conversation or get a second opinion about managing your accounts or your financial future, we’re always happy to touch base. You can get in touch with us by booking an appointment, calling us at 855-855-5455, or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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