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How to protect your finances online

This article is Sponsored by Arizona Central Credit Union

While it would be nice if crime would stop while the world deals with a crisis, that is not the case. Cybercrime, unfortunately, has increased.

“Cyber criminals and nation-states are seizing on the COVID-19 pandemic, exploiting widespread uncertainty and fear to execute cyberattacks against individuals, businesses, and government agencies,” says the Aspen Institute, an international non-profit think tank.

You can avoid becoming a target by securing your financial data, with these tips.

Know the scams

While you are likely aware of — and annoyed by — spam and phishing emails, they are an easy way for cyber criminals to send you an infected attachment or malicious links.

“These emails can be very convincing, as they may appear to come from a friend or organization you know,” Arizona Central Credit Union says. “Sometimes cyber attackers even use details from your social media accounts to create customized phishing attacks.”

Beyond email, you may notice cyber criminals targeting you in other ways:

  • You receive an unsolicited instant message with a link.
  • Adware pops up when you are online.
  • You encounter spoofing, when an attacker poses as someone else and asks you for information or to click a link.
  • You unknowingly download spyware, often when you install free software, that monitors your activity.
  • Criminals find documents with your personal information, such as bills, in the trash.

Shield your information

When you know how you might be targeted, it’s easier to protect yourself. For example, you should shred paperwork with personal information before throwing it away. As for online protection, never click on anything from an unfamiliar source, nor give personal, confidential, or financial information to someone who contacts you.

When you receive emails that require you to open an attachment or click a link, make sure the email address and any URLs match the company name and website. If there is a link, you don’t have to click it, instead manually type the website address in a new window.

When in doubt, contact the company’s customer service directly.

Create and change passwords

Creating a unique password isn’t enough, as the best way to secure your accounts is to have a different password for each. And a passphrase — several words — is better. So, how do you come up with and remember them?

“If you cannot remember all of your strong passwords, we recommend you use a password manager to store them securely,” Arizona Central Credit Union says. “A password manager is a computer program that securely stores all your passwords in an encrypted vault, so you only need to remember the password to the password manager program, and not to each account individually.”

Additionally, use two-step verification, which requires you to do something on top of typing your password, such as entering a code sent to your phone or email.

Secure your devices and networks

Even if multiple family members share a device, all of them should have a unique password so, if it’s stolen, someone will not be able to access your information.

Regardless of how many computers are in your home, children should not have administrator privileges. Additionally, all computers should have firewalls and antivirus software that you continually update.

Monitor your credit and accounts

If you keep an eye on your credit report, you’ll notice unauthorized activity and can report it. Sign up for a free annual credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

Additionally, if you have an account with Arizona Central Credit Union, you can set up alerts to identify and react to unauthorized account changes or transactions. Find out more at azcentralcu.org.