How to Protect Yourself from Financial Fraud and Identity Theft
In today’s digital age, most of our personal financial information exists somewhere online. While this can make managing our financial lives much easier and more efficient, it also places us at risk for financial fraud and identity theft. That’s why it’s vital to take steps to keep your personal financial situation secure. The following tips can help.
#1 – Use strong passwords.
Choose strong passwords that are difficult to guess. Change your passwords often, and resist the urge to assign the same password to every account. That way, if one account is hacked, other accounts are still protected. Also, while it may seem obvious, don’t keep a list of passwords in an unsecured location.
#2 – Keep your operating system and software up to date.
Software and operating system updates often include security fixes, which is why it’s important to enable automatic updates on all devices. You should also be using a well-respected internet browser, such as Chrome or Firefox, as they’re more likely to be regularly updated with the latest security protections.
#3 – Never click on suspicious emails.
Many fraudsters use phishing emails to solicit personal information or install malware on the systems of potential victims. If you receive an email that looks a bit suspicious, it probably is. Resist the urge to click any links, and never provide personal information over email.
If you receive an email regarding your finances that appears to be from your banking institution, the IRS or another organization, call the toll-free number of that that institution (the one listed on the company’s website, not a phone number in the suspicious email) to verify the email’s authenticity prior to taking any action.
#4 – Don’t share personal information over public Wi-Fi connections.
Public Wi-Fi networks aren’t secure. Any information exchanged over these networks can be intercepted, which is why you should never send personal or financial information over a public Wi-Fi connection.
#5 – Maintain security software.
Your internet-enabled devices should be equipped with strong, updated security software that regularly checks for suspicious and harmful activity. Make sure your software includes firewalls, anti-virus protection and intrusion detection. Never connect to the internet without strong security software in place.
#6 – Shred financial documents.
It’s not just your online data that’s at risk. Fraudsters have been known to comb through people’s trash for personal and financial information. Bank statements, bills and other financial documents offer the data fraudsters need to access your accounts. That’s why it’s important to shred all statements and documents before putting them in the trash.
#7 – Monitor your accounts.
One of the best ways to quickly identify fraudulent transactions is by consistently monitoring your accounts. Make a point to log into each of your accounts at least a couple times each week to review recent transactions. It’s also a good idea to set up online banking alerts to notify you of any unauthorized or suspicious activity.
#8 – Access your credit reports.
Typically, each of the major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) allows consumers to access one free report each year. Through 2023, consumers are temporarily allowed to check their credit for free weekly. Take advantage of the opportunity to check these reports and make sure there are no unexpected errors.
Could you use some help securing your financial data? Creative Planning is here for you. For more information, schedule a call with a member of our team.