Scammers, Hackers & Identity Thieves Oh My!
Scammers, hackers and identity thieves are looking to steal your personal information – and possibly your money. However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
Use good security practices. Keep your operating system updated in addition to other software. Check that your security software is active and current. At a minimum, your computer should have anti-virus software and a firewall. You can buy stand-alone programs for each element or a security suite that includes both. The security software that was installed on your computer when you bought it generally works for just a short time - unless you pay a subscription fee to keep it in effect.
Another way you can protect yourself online is to use security software that updates automatically. The “bad guys” are constantly developing new ways to attack your computer, so your security programs must be up-to-date to protect against the latest threats. Most security software can update automatically – you should set yours to do so. If you let your systems get out-of-date, then criminals can sneak their bad programs – called malware – onto your computer and use it to secretly break into other computers, send spam or spy on your online activities.
Passwords are the key to protecting yourself from scammers, hackers and identity thieves and it is very important to protect them. Here are a few principles for creating strong passwords and keeping them safe:
• The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack. Use at least 10 characters – 12 is ideal.
• Mix letters, numbers and special characters. Try to be unpredictable – don’t use your name, birthdate, common words or anything that can be found on social media.
• Use different passwords for each account. If a password is stolen from you, or one of the companies with which you do business, it can be used to take over all of your accounts.
• Don’t share passwords over the phone, in texts or by email. Legitimate companies will not send you messages asking for your password. If you get such a message, it’s probably a scam. Please remember that WFEC will never ask for your passwords or other identifying information over email.
• Keep your passwords in a secure place and out of plain sight.
• Use multi-factor (also called two-step) authentication when available. This adds another layer of protection against attacks. What is it? To log in, you must combine something you know (like a password), with an additional factor, which is usually something you have (like a code texted to a mobile phone) or
something you are (like a fingerprint). More companies are offering this option.
• Select security questions where only you know the answer. Don’t use questions whose answers can be found through online public records searches – like your birthplace or your mother’s maiden name. Don’t use questions with a limited number of responses that an attacker can easily guess – like the color of your first car.
• Another good tool to use is a password manager. There are several apps and other programs that will store all your passwords which you can access with one master password.