Have you ever checked a balance on one of your financial accounts and noticed money was missing? If so, you know that sick feeling when you realize that someone stole from you. While credit union accounts are insured, dealing with the hassle of reporting fraud and taking steps to protect your account is never fun.
Since October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, it is the perfect opportunity to review your security procedures to make sure the only one who has access to your money is you. Andy Tripp, senior vice president of IT for TTCU Federal Credit Union, shared his top tips to keep your financial information safe.
Paper statement lying around? That’s an easy target for someone looking to find your information. Tripp says going paperless keeps your information safer. One of our members was defrauded by their own family member who happened to see a paper statement lying on a table, and was then able to access the account and drain the funds, TTCU Director of Payment Solutions Becky Barrows shared. But if you love getting a paper statement, store it securely and shred it as soon as you no longer need it. Here’s a quick guide to how long to keep important documents.
Protect your computer
You wouldn’t leave your front door unlocked at night. Make sure you don’t do the same thing with your computer. Keep your antivirus software, Microsoft Windows, all browsers and other commonly used software such as Microsoft Office up-to-date, Tripp said. Several internet providers offer free antivirus software, so it’s worth checking to see if yours does, Tripp said.
Before clicking on a link, take a minute to think. Do you trust the source? If it’s in an email, do you know the sender? Does it seem like it’s really from them? Are all words spelled correctly? Is the web address a legitimate site? Hover over links to make sure you are being directed to the site you think you are.
Also, be wary of logging into public networks. If you’re using public Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or hotel, someone may be able to steal your information. The National Cybersecurity Alliance recommends waiting until you’re on a trusted, password-protected connection to transfer money, check balances or pay bills.
Keep your password secure
Passwords can be a pain. Everyone has forgotten one at one point or another, but it’s worth the effort to keep them secure. Use different passwords for different purposes and match the password complexity to the purpose, Tripp says. Never share your password. If someone asks for it, it is probably a scam.
One of TTCU’s members learned first-hand the risk of someone else getting their password, Barrows said. The member had his password stored in a document on his computer. Unfortunately, either through hacking the computer or accessing it in his home, someone was able to find the password and use it to access his online banking to send external transfers to an American Express card totaling more than $1,300. TTCU staff worked with him to secure his account. This shows the risks of having account information where someone else might gain access to it, Barrows said.
Monitor online banking
Want to know right away if your account is compromised? Sign up for the alerts offered by your financial institution. For instance, TTCU offers a variety of account alerts through online banking and our mobile apps.* Stay up to date with the exact notifications you want.
Get your credit report
It’s like a yearly check-up for your finances. With AnnualCreditReport.com, a free, government-sponsored site, you can get a copy of your report every 12 months from each credit reporting company. Using your report, make sure all credit accounts and loans have been authorized by you and your information is correct.
Use these tips to help keep your information secure year-round. If you suspect one of your accounts is compromised, call your financial institution right away. After all, the only person who should be accessing your money is you!
*Message and data fees may apply from your wireless carrier.