5 Tips for Keeping Personal Information Safe Online
Incidences of cyber crime and fraud have been increasing in the banking and retail industries. Criminals are attempting to steal personal information or financial resources through scams and phishing. They use email, text, and online advertisements about popular topics, including the pandemic, low interest loans, stimulus payments, online shopping, and more to entice you to click a link or open an attachment which may make you vulnerable to identity theft or financial losses.
1. Protect your computer systems
Install security software that protects against malware, or malicious software. Malware infects your computer and can allow access, without your consent, to steal passwords or account numbers. Use a firewall program to prevent unauthorized access to your PC and network. Make sure settings are configured for automatic updates or have a plan to ensure your software is kept current. Updates are released regularly to keep up with hacker tactics and newly identified system vulnerabilities.
2. Use strong passwords & two-factor authentication
- Use the strongest authentication methods offered, especially for high-risk transactions or online accounts that store your confidential information.
- Create “strong” user IDs and passwords for your computers, mobile devices, and online accounts by using combinations of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols that are hard to guess and then change them regularly.
- Use passwords that are eight or more characters, and keep them secret. Using the same password or PIN for several accounts can be tempting, but doing so means a criminal who obtains it may be able to log into other accounts.
- Using two-factor authentication requires your identity be validated through a second method before access to your online account is allowed.
3. Take precautions with your smartphone and tablet
- Never leave your mobile device unattended and use a password or other security feature to restrict access in case your device is lost or stolen. Make sure you enable the “time-out” or “auto-lock” feature to secure the device when left unused for a certain period of time.
- Do not allow others to register their face or fingerprints to access your device using biometric recognition features. This can place your accounts at risk for unauthorized access.
- Consider opting for automatic updates for your device’s operating system and apps to help reduce your vulnerability to software problems.
- Research any app before downloading it. Consult an organization’s website to confirm where to download its official mobile app.
4. Be suspicious of unsolicited e-mails & text messages
It’s easy for cyber criminals to copy the logo of a reputable company or organization into a phishing email. By following a simple instruction, such as clicking on a link, downloading an attachment, or providing account and other private information, you may be installing malware on your device or making yourself vulnerable to identity theft. Your safest strategy is to ignore unsolicited requests, no matter how legitimate or enticing they appear. Call your local Northwest Bank office to verify any unsolicited requests.
5. Be careful where and how you connect to the internet
Only access the internet for banking or other activities that involve personal information using your own computer or mobile device through a known, trusted, and secure connection. A public computer, such as at a hotel business center or public library, and free Wi-Fi networks may not be secure. It is a common practice to infect shared computers with malware or to setup compromised public Wi-Fi hotspots to steal your credentials, gather information, and spy on your activity.