We live in an increasingly digital world, one where personal finances, banking information, and retirement accounts are seldom more than a mouse click away. The digital ecosystem is awfully convenient, but it also comes with its share of risks. Consider: It’s easier than ever for you to access key financial information, but it’s also quite simple for wrongdoers and cybercriminals to gain entry into your confidential accounts.
When you’re a victim of online fraud or theft, it can be very challenging to recover lost assets; the good news is that there are some simple steps you can take to mitigate your level of risk.
How to Safeguard Against Cyber Attacks
- Have antivirus software in place but understand that this isn’t always enough. We are 100 percent in favor of software that helps protect your computer and other personal devices against fraudulent activity. However, it’s important to realize that this alone is insufficient for protecting your online confidentiality. In fact, an overwhelming majority of cybercrimes (more than 90 percent!) come from basic user errors, e.g., opening links you shouldn’t, responding to emails that are not legitimate, etc. Software is great, but it doesn’t take the place of basic vigilance and prudence!
- Be skeptical of unexpected emails. In particular, we would recommend exercising hyper vigilance with regard to emails you receive, especially those that ask you to either open a link or an attachment. Do you know the sender? Were you expecting the email? Look closely at the email address; fraudsters can often make emails look like they came from someone you know, but the address may be just a little bit off. If you’re unsure, call or text the person to verify that they did indeed send something and that it’s legitimate.
- Don’t handle financial transactions over email. There’s really never a reason to provide personal banking information or logins via email. The same goes for money transfers, payment updates, etc. If you get a request to do any of this via email, call the person who allegedly sent this request. And don’t call a phone number mentioned in the email; dial a number you’ve used before and know to be valid. (If the email says it’s from your bank, use a phone number you see listed on the bank’s website.)
- Remember, legitimate companies won’t ask you to provide sensitive information over email. A good rule of thumb: A reputable company or financial institution will never ask you to confirm a transaction or provide your login information/account number/etc. via email.
- Use two-factor authentication whenever possible. Most of your online accounts should give you an option for two-factor authentication; this basically makes it a two-step process to log into any of your personal profiles and may require you to input a code that’s texted to your mobile device. This is a great way to prevent against unwanted intrusions. Here’s an excellent website that will help you scour your online accounts for options to implement two-step authentication.
The bottom line: Cybercrimes are very real, yet there are some simple steps you can take to be more vigilant. Often, a little extra caution is enough to keep you out of harm’s way. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at Stonepath Wealth Management.