How To Protect Yourself

Computer Security

  • Up-to-date Antivirus Software – Antivirus programs scan everything that goes into your computer — including email, discs and data files — searching for thousands of known viruses. However, to remain effective, the software requires regular signature updates in order to identify and prevent emerging threats. Therefore, it is important to acquire antivirus software and set it to update automatically.
  • Up-to-date Anti-spyware – Anti-spyware programs monitor your computer, watching for programs that try to install themselves without your knowledge or permission. As with Antivirus software, it is important to install the latest updates in order to have the best protection. We recommend setting your anti-spyware software to update automatically.
  • Web Browser Updates – Newer web browsers have added benefits like faster loading times and more importantly, in-browser security. These security functions offer you protection from downloading malicious software or clicking malware-laced links. Therefore, having the latest updates will help prevent malware from getting to your computer. Set your browser to update automatically and set your browser security level to high.
  • Operating System Updates – Operating system updates are released to fix known vulnerabilities in software that are subject to potential exploitation by hackers. These updates improve the usability and performance of your computer while providing added security against attacks. Therefore, it is important that your operating system updates are set to install automatically.
  • Turn On Firewall – Your firewall operates as a security checkpoint that information must pass through before it can enter or leave your computer. It’s an extra line of defense against viruses, spyware and other malicious attacks on your computer. You should ensure your firewall is turned on at all times.
  • Use Encryption – The internet is a public network that is accessible by users around the world, which makes it by no means private. Any files transmitted via the internet are subject to ‘eavesdropping’ or interception by unknown parties. Therefore, in order to protect your privacy, encryption will jumble your information using a complex algorithm that can only be unlocked by anyone to whom you send the decryption key.
  • Use a Privacy Screen When in Public – Fraudsters often engage in shoulder surfing in order to see what is happening on your screen. In order to protect your privacy when in public, use a privacy screen and be aware of how close other people are to you, especially when viewing sensitive information.
  • Scan External Devices – When attaching any external devices (e.g. flash Drives, external hard drives, etc.) to your computer, it is suggested that you perform a scan for malware that could infect your computer. This is especially important if you have been downloading files or the device has been in contact with other computers. This will prevent the malware from spreading to other uninfected files on your PC.

Password Guidelines

Your password grants access to your accounts and by extension, your personal information. Therefore, it is important to do the following:

  • Use strong passwords of at least 8 characters that include upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. Phrases and other non-obvious combinations are harder to guess.
  • Change passwords at least every 30 days. Changes should be significant – adding an incremental number, month or year may not be sufficient.
  • Don’t use the same passwords for multiple accounts, especially not for banking and other sites that contain sensitive information.
  • Keep passwords safe. Avoid writing passwords or sharing them with others. A password management tool is suggested if you become overwhelmed.
  • Avoid using sensitive information in your passwords.
  • Enable input masks when typing passwords. This will change characters to dots or stars to prevent others from seeing what you type.
  • Avoid being too descriptive in your password hints. This will make it harder for fraudsters to guess.

Protect Your Home Wireless Network

  • Change Your Router’s Preset Password – Wireless network devices are sold with default passwords that are known or publicly available to hackers. To prevent unauthorized access, change the default name to something unique and obscure that follows the password guidelines listed above.
  • Don’t Broadcast Your Network Name – Your SSID is your network name. Anyone wishing to connect to your network must know the SSID in order to connect. If you disable SSID broadcasting, your network won’t be visible to outsiders.
  • Change Default Network Name – Wireless devices are sold with default user names that may share important information about your network. Suppliers of wireless devices publicly list the default usernames and corresponding passwords to make it easy for customers to configure their network. The default network name basically offers no security, so it should be changed immediately.
  • Enable Encryption – Be sure to turn on the encryption capabilities on your router so all the data sent across your network is scrambled when being viewed by an unauthorized user. This provides an added layer of security if a hacker is able to access your network.

Online & Mobile Precautions

  • Avoid Clicking Pop-ups and Banner Ads – Pop-ups and banner ads may have spyware or viruses embedded within them that could slow your computer or give fraudsters access to your PC. To get rid of a pop-up, always click the close icon. Never click ‘Agree’, ‘I Accept’ or ‘Okay’ to close the window.
  • Don’t Check Remember Password Option – If you check remember password option anyone that has access to your phone or computer will be able to login to your accounts. These passwords are sometimes not securely stored and can by found in plain text in your files, allowing fraudsters to share your information. This is applies moreso when using public computers or portable devices, which can be lost or stolen.
  • Don’t Email or Text Personal or Financial Information – Avoid sending credit card numbers, passwords, social security numbers and other sensitive information via email or text message, as they can be easily intercepted (unless you’re using WPA2 encryption).
  • Use Caution When Downloading or Opening Attachments – Be sure to only download files and open attachments from reputable sources that you trust. It is not unusual for downloads to include viruses and spyware. Be especially wary when downloads, links and attachments are unsolicited or free.
  • Turn on Spam Filters – Your spam filter captures unwanted advertisements and other junk emails in a separate folder so you can review them at a later date or have them deleted automatically. Spam emails that are blocked may contain viruses, spyware and phishing attempts that will be quarantined, keeping your other files safe. Keeping your spam filter on will help protect you from external attacks on the internet.
  • Pop-up Blocker – Your pop-up blocker prevents unwanted pop-up advertisements from filling your computer screen. In addition to being distracting and reducing productivity, pop-ups may contain viruses and spyware that are activated just by clicking in the pop-up window. Enable your pop-up blocker to add some preventative security.
  • Turn Off Wi-Fi – Enabling your wireless devices to connect automatically to wireless networks provides some convenience but is also a huge security risk. Doing so may allow your wireless device to connect to unsecure networks created by hackers to capture your username and password and steal your information. With your ‘auto-connect’ option enabled, hackers may be able to set up peer-to-peer network with your device in order to gain access to your files. Manually connect to wireless networks when necessary.
  • Disable Geotagging and Mapping Functions – Geotagging broadcasts the exact latitude and longitude or your current location, which may share your home address with the public. Also, geotagging will let criminals know when you are away from home, an opportune time to break in.
  • Do Not Enable File Sharing – File sharing allows members of your network to access and download files from your computer or cell phone. This is risky for many reasons. File sharing software may make you more susceptible to an attack since they require certain ports to be open, which act as a back door to your computer. Shared files may include malware and grant public access o your personal information.
  • Log Out Immediately – You should log out immediately after accessing your online banking or any other account that contains sensitive information. If you leave your account logged in after completing your transactions, anyone with access to your computer will be able to use your open session to get to your personal information. So just to be safe, log out after you complete your transactions on any site that requires username and password access.
  • Lock your Screen w/ PIN, Password or Pattern Security – With all the portable devices we use these days, there is a very likely threat of theft. Once a criminal has your computer or cell phone, they will have access to all the information stored on the device in addition to the usernames and passwords for your online accounts. Locking your screen with a PIN or password will provide an extra layer of security to protect your information.

Credit & Debit Card Safety

Credit and debit card fraud is very prevalent. With the right pieces information, fraudsters can gain access to your accounts or create copies of your card without having the actual card in their possession. Here are some tips to help protect your information:

  • Sign bank cards immediately.
  • Report lost or stolen cards immediately.
  • Memorize your PIN. Don’t write it anywhere or share it with anyone.
  • Shield keypad from view when entering PIN numbers.
  • Cancel and destroy unused cards.
  • Verify merchant Information before making purchases.
  • For maximum protection from liability pay by credit card.
  • Check for the lock on the browser before using your card online.
  • Using the ATM – 1) Discard receipts and carbon copies properly. Tear up or shred before throwing away. 2) Be careful when using independent ATMs, check for card skimmers when you can.

ATM Safety

  • Be sure you’re not being followed before and after using an ATM.
  • Put your card and cash away immediately. Count your cash later in private.
  • Don’t let anyone help you with your ATM transaction.
  • In a location with multiple ATM machines, shield the keypad when entering your PIN and be aware of anyone trying to look over your shoulder.
  • If you need to make a deposit, be prepared with all required forms before getting to the ATM.
  • Be especially cautious when going to an ATM at night. Only visit well lit, public, clearly accessible ATM locations.
  • When using a drive through ATM, ensure all passenger doors are locked and windows are up.

Avoid Check Scams

  • Use direct deposit for any regular deposits.
  • Secure your check books. Report lost or stolen checks immediately.
  • Be careful about depositing checks from unknown individuals or companies.
  • Don’t send checks to any unknown individuals or organizations.
  • Don’t put your social security number, driver’s license number, credit card, number or phone number on any check.
  • Don’t leave blank spaces on checks. Fill extra space with a line.
  • Don’t make checks payable to ‘Cash’.
  • Don’t endorse checks until you are depositing or cashing them.
  • When you order checks be sure you receive your complete order in the mail.
  • Reconcile your checkbook frequently.
  • Check for security features on checks.

Your Responsibilities

  • Monitor Bills & Statements Monthly – It is important that you review your bills and bank/credit card statements every month for discrepancies in your purchases, purchase amounts and balances. The sooner you find and report your findings, the better the possibility of locating the source of your breach.
  • Report Any Inconsistencies on Your Statement Within 60 Days of the Issue Date – If there are errors on your statements, filing a dispute with your bank or credit card company must occur within 60 days after the statement containing the error has been issued. After this time, the institution is no longer required to perform investigations on your behalf or issue a chargeback.
  • Shred Junk Mail – Some criminals try to gain access to your personal information by stealing mail from your mailbox or searching through your garbage and recycling containers. In order to prevent this from happening, put a lock on your mailbox and shred or rip junk mail before discarding, especially unwanted credit card offers and bank related notices.
  • Eliminate Paper Usage – By opting to utilize electronic means to do your business, you can significantly reduce your security risk for certain types of fraud. By taking advantage of direct deposit, online bill payment functions and viewing bank statements online, it will be harder for criminals to intercept your personal information as it travels through the post office system.
  • Review Credit Report at Least Once a Year – Your credit report contains your personal information, your employment history and any liability accounts that are currently open. If someone has used your name or social security number to open any liability accounts without your knowledge, it will be shown on the credit report. It is important to review your credit report to monitor your financial stability and report any inaccuracies so they can be resolved.
  • Avoid Sharing Your Social Security Number or Driver’s License Number – Keep your Social Security Card, Passport and any other documents that contain personal information locked away. Don’t carry them around in your purse or wallet.

Monitoring Children’s Internet Activity

  • Be aware of the information your children are sharing online.
  • Utilize the parental restriction functions within your web browser to set boundaries in the event you’re not around to monitor your child’s internet activity.