Defend against fraud: How to protect personal information online

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Five tips to help secure your financial information. 

Banking apps make it easy and convenient to monitor checking and savings account statements online, pay bills online rather than by check and shop using your smartphone. And new digital payment methods can easily replace traditional cash. As a result, your personal financial data is circulating in cyberspace. While transactions may now be easier, they may not be more secure.

How safe is your personal financial information?

Mobile apps, budgeting tools and online payment systems can make budgeting seamless. But the risk may come in security breaches, hacking and identity theft. (Learn more about how you can protect yourself from identity theft.)

According to a 2017 Javelin identity fraud report, more than 6% of buyers in the U.S. were hit by identity fraud in 2016, resulting in nearly $700 million in losses.

Protecting your personal financial information online should be a top priority—and there’s a lot you can do to prevent credit card fraud.

5 helpful tips for preventing fraud and protecting your personal information online. 

  1. Be smart about passwords.

    Update passwords on a regular basis across all sites where financial information is stored, and make sure those passwords are unique. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Online payment systems—for bills, shopping, or banking—should have strong, complicated passwords that are swapped out and replaced monthly. Consider using a password management tool to help keep track. And get creative with security questions. Avoid easy, readily available personal information like your mother’s maiden name or birth date. Come up with trickier ways to prove identity—things only you would know.

  2. Be careful when using public Wi-Fi.

    Hot spots in coffee shops, libraries and airports are convenient, but they’re not always secure. Any information sent over these networks could be vulnerable to third parties. Never use unsecured email or unsecured public Wi-Fi hot spots to send personal information, including your Social Security or credit card number. Instead, only connect to trusted networks or virtual private networks (VPNs).

  3. Keep a close eye on banking and credit activity.

    Check your finances online every day to look for unexpected changes or suspicious activity. Banks and credit institutions typically have built-in fraud protection and notification systems, but it’s important to stay on top of what money’s going in (and out of) your accounts. Set up text alerts with your bank or credit institutions so you can be notified of any potentially fraudulent activity in real-time.

  4. Stay on top of your monthly credit report.

    Check your credit report every month to make sure everything looks up to date and accurate. If unauthorized accounts or loans have been opened in your name, they’ll be reflected on your credit report. Subscribe to credit monitoring services to track your progress and alert you to any changes so you can quickly address them.

  5. Speaking of credit, stay on top of that monthly credit report.

    Daily email correspondence and internet searches can create weakened access points for hackers and gaps in security. Cybercriminals use phishing and technical support scams to install malicious software on computers or to steal personal information from machines. Understand what these scams look like and take action immediately to report the incidents to the Federal Trade Commission.

 

More tips for better credit and money management, and advice for protecting your financial information online can be found here: Comenity’s financial education resources

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