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With the dawn of the Internet came a whole new wave of criminal activity. Yes, we’ve seen the advent of cyber crime morph into a force that can bring governments, businesses, and entire continents to their collective knees. In this day and age, protecting your financial information both online and offline has never been more crucial.
Every day there seems to be a new threat. This group hacked into this company’s server and exposed millions of customers’ financial data. Or a government website is hacked and an entire country’s population has their personally identifiable information released for anybody with an Internet connection to see.
So, yeah, the consequences to the regular folk like you and I is incredibly devastating. You hear stories like people having their retirement accounts whipped out or individuals from other countries spending a person’s money a world away. Then, there are people that even open up credit cards or obtain mortgages with stolen information. It’s enough to freak you out.
How should you be protecting your financial information? That’s the question we need to be asking each other and the experts. Fortunately, I’ve found some great articles, blog posts, and guides to get the financial cyber security chat going.
This isn’t one of those posts you gloss over. You’re going to want to bookmark this piece, share it with your friends and family, and come back to it for later use. Your very own personal finances and hard-earned money is in the cross hairs.
Note: This article contains affiliate links.
Protecting your financial information starts with knowing what to look for.
Email and social media are just part of our day. We get countless emails from things we signed up for, places we’ve shopped, and people trying to sell us more stuff. On social media, we see post after post of news feeds, tweets, and pins and really don’t perceive ourselves as being in any sort of danger.
What’s wrong with a little mindless scrolling? Well, look, I’m not trying to be everyone’s dad here, but you really do need to be careful about what your click or what attachments you open. Let’s be honest, we’ve all been a victim (including me) of some Facebook virus. You click on a link you’re not supposed to thinking it’s someone else.
I hope that if you fall for these things, you learn your lesson. Usually, you just have to change your password and life goes on.
But, the cyber criminals out there aren’t stupid. Unfortunately, we can be at times and we’re easy prey. We use easy to discover passwords and post all kinds of information about our personal lives on social media. I know I’m guilty of it as well.
Another thing we do if we’re not technologically-informed is click on links from the person who sent an email from something like firstname.lastname@example.org (or some other variation). This is called spear phishing and it’s a real problem. These emails need to be deleted and routed to spam.
When protecting your financial information, you need to stay up to date with your own personal finances.
Do you monitor your bank accounts, credit card accounts, and credit reports? If not, you really should start doing that. You need to know what’s going on with your financial information at all times.
In doing so, you will be able to know right away that something “phishy” is going on. From there, you will be able to act in real-time to stop any further damage and prevent another threat.
Someone used our credit card …
A few years ago, I was going through my monthly credit card statement and found a charge for thousands of dollars for some flight to somewhere in South America or the Middle East. I can’t remember the exact location.
But, I know I had no plans to go there and I didn’t think Anna was leaving me (sarcasm of course), so I called the credit card company. Fortunately, they were able to put a hold on the card, cancel the charge, and issue us new cards. That said, it was pretty shocking seeing that and a situation I rather not go through again.
We came to find out later that there was some scam going on in our area. The thieves would use a card reader on a gas station pump that read your card number. So, I know I’m not the only one that has this crap happen to them.
Forbes’ contributor R.L. Adams had this to stay in a recent article on the subject of identity theft protection:
Most of the credit reporting agencies provide alerts anytime a change is detected on your credit report. Whether your information was accessed in the form of an inquiry or a new account was created or a late payment was noted, it will send you an alert. This is critical for protecting your identity in the case of a data breach. Regardless, whether you were the victim of a breach or not, it’s prudent to sign up for these services directly through Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.
In the same article, Adams also explains that you can have the credit reporting agencies freeze your credit report. While this service requires a monthly membership fee, your credit report is locked and only a unique code you receive can allow for changes.
If you shop online a lot, protecting your financial information takes on a whole new level of importance.
I am as guilty as anyone when using the “1-Click” buying options on sites like Amazon. It’s just so easy and I am absolutely in love with Amazon Prime. I’m a sucker for two-day shipping, what can I say?
With my current job, my information was actually compromised after a recent hack. Fortunately, they have given all of us involved free credit monitoring over the last few years. I’m not necessarily worried about anything going wrong, but you never know. So, I happily obliged to participate and have that peace of mind.
If you’re somebody that has been hacked and your information was compromised, you should consider investing in a service like Watchman Identity or Smart Credit. Even if you haven’t been a victim, it might at least be worth investigating if you do a lot of buying or conduct business online.
I rather know that my information is safe and I’m taking action than trying to get my financial house back in order. Better safe than sorry in matters of identity protection.
Check out these other resources on protecting your financial information.
In doing research for this article, I found some great articles and resource guides I wanted to share. The first is from FINRA, or the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. They have a great guide on keeping your account secure, which I highly suggest you review.
An article you definitely want to read is from the Nancy Mann Jackson from Acorns’ Grow Magazine. Nancy discusses how cyber criminals are after your dough and how to even be on the lookout for rewards points theft! Actually, for more on the financial services industry being a prime target for cyber thieves, read this article from Dark Reading.
Finally, two guides you need to check out come from the Wall Street Journal and the Federal Trade Commission. WSJ talks about how to protect yourself from credit card fraud. The FTC gives you a rather thorough guide on protecting and identifying various types of fraud that wreak havoc on your family’s personal finances. Be sure to read those carefully.
Protecting your financial information is on you.
Even if you do sign up for one of the monitoring services, it’s still a great idea to know what’s going on with your money. You need to be an active participant not a passive bystander.
Further, you need to educate yourself on what to look for when it comes to phishing and fraud attempts. All the financial education in world can’t save you if you click on the wrong link in an email. So, stay informed.
I understand that we all have busy lives, but this kind of knowledge is crucial to have and to implement. You need to find the time to incorporate it into your lives. Your family’s well-being depends on it.
Has your financial information or identity ever been compromised? How do you go about protecting your financial information? Share your experiences and knowledge with us in the comments below.