It seems as if every other day the news breaks out with the latest cybersecurity breach. However, most cases of online fraud don’t make it into public view. Unfortunately, the reality is that online fraud is incredibly common. Given the prevalence of the problem, you may be wondering how to protect your accounts from online fraud.
We’ve outlined the most important precautions you can take to safeguard your online information and keep your funds safe.
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Internet scammers are out there
Online fraud is more prevalent than you’d think. A recent survey by Transunion found that digital fraud impacted 38% of Americans in the first quarter of 2022. Data breaches are also another serious concern. The same survey found that 26% of respondents had been notified that their personal account or identity information had been stolen in a data breach over the same period.
Scammers (or fraudsters) are online criminals who impersonate others to steal their identities and their money. You can protect yourself, but you need to remain vigilant to keep your information, bank accounts and identity safe. Learn how NOT to be an easy target for online scams so your accounts stay protected.
Ways to protect your accounts from online fraud
Implementing a couple of the following best practices can go a long way when it comes to protecting your accounts from online fraud and safeguarding your personal information.
Change your passwords — often
Everyone has experienced the frustration of forgetting a password or two and may attempt to avoid this by using the same password for all accounts. Short or easily guessed passwords are a gift to online fraudsters.
One way to help protect yourself is to change your passwords on a regular basis and make them difficult. Generally, the longer the password, the more difficult it is to guess, unless it is something predictable like your last name.
Try using a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters and special characters. On your phone, consider enabling your thumbprint or face ID to more easily remember passwords.
Quick tip: It’s also a smart idea not to write all your passwords down and save it in a folder called “Passwords” because online fraudsters can gain access to your hard drive and the folders it contains.
Instead, write the passwords down on a piece of paper, use a password management app, or hide your passwords in a document for another purpose.
Beware of email attachments
Scammers send you attachments as a way to trick you into installing malware (malicious software) onto your computer so that they can potentially get access to sensitive information.
Most email applications include a virus scanner. At a minimum, if you don’t know the sender, don’t open any attachments.
Remember when your parents used to say, “Don’t accept candy from strangers?” The same applies to email attachments.
Don’t send personal account information by email
If a financial institution requests any information through email, don’t respond directly. If you see this type of email, it’s most likely a scam or a phishing email. Look at the sender’s email address. These phishing emails may say they’re from your bank, but the email is something like [email protected]. That’s a clear indication that it’s a scam.
Keep in mind that no reputable bank would ask you to send personal information over the internet. Instead, navigate directly to the institution’s app or online portal and verify it has attempted to reach you. If not, call customer service to verify any communication.
Monitor your credit report
Monitoring all open accounts and inquiries within your credit report helps keep you aware of changes and better able to detect fraud.
If you see something that looks suspicious, you then have the opportunity to work with the credit bureaus to have it removed. Keep in mind that a common fraud technique is to make many small, almost negligible charges to your account. If you see charges for $1 to $20 that you don’t think you made, be sure to follow up!
Work with trusted financial institutions
A great foundation to protect against online fraud is to work with a trusted financial institution. Look for banks and other financial providers that implement the top security measures to protect user accounts. Top security measures include 128-bit or 256-bit data encryption, two-factor authentication, electronic signature verification and automatic account logout functionality. You also want a banking partner to that only sends out encrypted email messaging and offers continuous account monitoring.
Sign up for banking alerts
Many banks and financial institutions offer automatic banking alerts that notify you of recent account activity as well as potential suspicious activity. To stay on the safe side, you’ll want to sign up for alerts that notify you of low account balances, newly linked external accounts, password changes, recent credit or debit transactions as well as failed login attempts.
If you do receive an alert for suspicious activity, don’t hesitate to contact your financial institution right away. The sooner you report online banking fraud, the faster you’ll be able to stop it.
Be cautious when using public wifi networks
Public wifi networks are notorious for security risks. That’s because they make it incredibly easy to hack into and access someone’s personal information. If you are using a public wifi network, make sure to refrain from logging into your online banking account. It’s best to wait until you’re back on a secured network to view and manage sensitive materials.
Be cautious, stay vigilant
Online fraud has never been more common than now. Even large, established companies are facing fraud and cybercrimes. Protecting yourself requires alertness and common sense. Put the security in place now, so you don’t pay the price down the line.
Stay aware, whether you’re checking your email or your bank account balance. Scammers are out there and ready to expose your personal information for their benefit. Set long, complex passwords and manage them responsibly, use a virtual private network (VPN) when using public Wi-Fi, setup two-step verification and alerts. A little time now setting up precautions can bring both security and peace of mind.
What measures can you take to prevent online fraud?
Make sure to implement the following practices: set strong passwords of 10 characters or more; update phones, tablets and computers regularly; install reliable antivirus software; keep personal information out of social media profiles; make sure to avoid phishing scams or responding to suspicious emails.
How can you protect yourself from email and internet fraud?
Remember to never open an email attachment from a sender you don’t know, never give out your password and avoid blindly clicking links. If you do click an unsolicited link, and you land on a sign-in page, never enter any information. Keep in mind that an offer that sounds too good to be true probably is.
How can you protect yourself from online fraud?
Protecting yourself from fraud involves monitoring your accounts, checking your credit report, shredding sensitive documents, using antivirus software and a VPN and being cautious about where you input your information. Stay alert and report any suspicious activity right away!