Scammers, hackers, and identity thieves are looking to steal your personal information and often your money. By taking the right precautions you can help protect yourself from these threats, such as keeping your computer software up to date and only entering personal information when it is necessary.
- Understand your Protection Software. Online security software can help protect your computer against digital threats which are prevalent online. There are many free options and subscription options that are available from well known companies. Essential tools should include a firewall, virus/malware protection as well as removal and quarantine, and file encryption if you keep sensitive data on your computer. Some even come with parental controls and privacy protection. Do not buy security software offered in a pop-up ad; it is likely from a scammer.
- Allow Security Software to Update Automatically. Malicious software (called Malware for short) and viruses are constantly evolving and if your software provider is good they will continue to regularly update against the latest threats.
- Look for the “s” at the End of the “http” in the Web Address. “https” represents the site is protected under some kind of site encryption when dealing with personal information. The “s” stands for “secure”. Pay close attention to make sure all the pages carry over the “https”, not just the login page. A common trick some scammers use is duplicating the session timing out or expiring.
- Use Strong Passwords. The IRS recommends you use a password of at least 10 to 12 characters, mixing letters, numbers, and special characters. Try to avoid using your name, birthdate, or common words, and don’t use the same password across several accounts. Keep your password list in a secure place or use a password manager, and of course don’t share it with anyone! Almost every attempt of someone claiming to be of an official source to update your account or asking personal information is a scam; unless YOU are asking them to change something in your account, they should not be asking you about your personal information.
- Secure Your Wireless Network(s). We joke about using other’s “free” wi-fi, but that person is putting themselves in grave risk of being exposed via an internet attack and you as well for using it. Be sure to secure your home and/or business networks to protect your information or worse, someone else using your signal to send spam or commit crimes. Generally you must turn on this feature.
- Be Cautious When Using Public Wi-Fi. While very convenient, these are often not secure. Sometimes personal information that gets input through these gets stored somewhere in a log or “cookie”. Again make sure you see the “s” in the “https” to ensure the information will be secure.
- Avoid “Phishing” Attempts. “Phishing” is a specific type of spam that comes up often in emails. Never reply or click on links from messages asking for your personal information. Criminals often will impersonate the business or organization with a seemingly legitimate or well built page and/or link. Never click these links, simply go to the organization’s website itself. Again, unless you personally requested some type of change, legitimate businesses should not be asking for your information first.
Author’s Note: Your browser itself can also unwillingly channel these threats. Be sure to use a proper browser, and take advantage of Add-Ons such as ‘uBlock Origin’ (excellent for stopping those annoying spam pop-ups) and software like ‘AVG’ and ‘AntiMalware Bytes’. There are in fact better options out there other than the Windows Defender that comes with your Windows operating system. Macintosh users are not immune to viruses and malware! In fact they can be even more vulnerable. Your phone is no exception; if you use it for more than just Facebook you can also protect your phone and mobile devices as companies have now started to create similar software for these.
At Account On Us you can rest assured that you are dealing with a tax professional that is highly trusted and respected in the community. We are a Diamond Partner in the St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce and have been on the Board of Directors for many years. We are here to serve, guide and direct you. If you’re looking for the best in accounting service, payroll services, tax planning and more… call us at 407.892.1066!