The more we rely on technology, the more our information becomes accessible to hackers. We recently heard of someone that saw an email confirming a gift card purchase she hadn’t made on one of her store cards. While she was researching this fraudulent charge, emails came in that there were failed log in attempts on a social media account. She now became worried and realized she was being targeted by a hacker. She immediately started changing passwords, but not before her profile picture was changed on one account. The scariest part is that the emails were being deleted in front of her eyes, so they had also accessed her email in order to cover their tracks. Thank heavens, she was able to avoid any financial loss, but she is planning to watch her credit report closely and has notified her financial accounts to make sure there aren’t any problems still coming.
One of the common things we hear is that you should use different passwords for each of your accounts. This would have helped our person above because all of the accounts in question had the same password. Once the hacker figured that out, they had free reign and could have caused a lot more damage. It is a good reminder WHY these passwords need to be different.
At the office, we are constantly talking about security and staying vigilant looking for phishing emails. These seem to have picked up in both frequency and plausibility. They use the company logos, email formatting, etc. of companies you may already do business with. However, they provide just enough information to hook you and then tell you to click the button/link for the rest of the information. This link opens a spoofed website either giving the hacker access to your computer or trying to obtain more information to build their file on you. We have seen emails posing as national mailing/shipping companies, title companies, mortgage lenders, software companies, etc. Never be too busy to question an email that looks even a little suspicious.
All of this can be scary and overwhelming, but here are a few more ideas you can use to protect yourself and make it harder for these would-be thieves.
- Create secure passwords:
- Make them a complex combination of upper-case and lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols. The longer the better!
- Use no ties to your personal information (dates of birth, children’s names, pets’ names, address, etc.) as these details can usually be found through a social media search.
- Try using a phrase or sentence that means something to you and then shorten &/or replace characters (for example “I want to run a marathon before I turn 40” becomes “Iw2r@mb4It40”).
- Keep a separate password for each account you set up.
- Change all of your passwords if you think any of them have been compromised.
- Use a password manager such as 1Password, Keeper, LastPass, LogMeOnce, RoboForm, SafeInCloud, etc. There are many options and costs. Do some research and find the one that meets your needs and budget. Then set a VERY STRONG password on this. It is the only one you will have to remember now and it holds the key to everything so you don’t want anyone else getting a hold of it.
- Use false answers to the security questions. Some sites still require you to set up security questions, but the questions are usually simple things that a hacker could find out. Instead, use false answers that you will remember. Instead of your mother’s maiden name how about using her favorite food as the answer?
- Keep your operating system and anti-virus software up to date. Whether it is your desktop, laptop, or smart phone, be sure to keep approving the system updates. Many of these are to repair known security issues.
Many homeowners and renters policies provide the option to purchase Identity Theft Expense Coverage. This endorsement covers the added costs of correcting your credit and clearing up identity theft issues, including attorney fees. If you are unsure if you have the coverage or would like a quote to add it, please feel free to contact us.
Stay safe and secure!
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