Data security issues are becoming more common all the time. Turn on the news and it's likely you'll hear about a data theft at a big box store, online merchant or financial company.
At one time, we expected these institutions to protect us, our personal information and our money. But it's just not happening.
Here’s what you need to know to guard your personal information and assets from online criminals.
Did you know: Cyber criminals don't find all their information online? They often search trash containers, dumpsters and recycling sites for pieces of paper that contain personal information. Protect yourself against this by using a shredder.
Many terms are used to describe online crime. Here are some of the most common:
An identify theft means that someone has gotten access to your personal information so they can commit a financial crime. The data breach is the incident in which a thief actually gets access to that personal information. And the cyber theft is when your money is actually stolen or you are prevented from using it.
Tip: For extra security, use an online password generator. They bring a level of randomness that can make passwords almost impossible to crack.
The first and simplest thing you can do to protect yourself against an online theft is to check your credit and debit card statements line-by-line. Look for anything unusual, especially purchases you did not make or money you didn't withdraw. Finding this can be a sure sign that a thief has access to your account information.
Report anything questionable to your financial company, no matter how small. Believe it or not, a tiny one dollar transaction could be a sign that something much bigger is going on. Cyber criminals often try to put through a small transaction to see if the account is a valid one and they have the correct information to hack into it.
Always remember to ask your financial provider to cancel your card and issue you a new one if you find something unusual going on. Also make sure you change the passwords and PIN numbers associated with the account.
The next thing you can do is get access to tools for monitoring both your credit profile and your card activity. There are many companies that offer credit and card-activity monitoring services. They provide different features and charge a range of fees. Read some online reviews to find the one that's best for you.
Finally, watch out for phishing. Phishing is when criminals pretend they are real companies to get information from you so they can so they can access your accounts online and steal your assets. They use fake websites, email, social media and other things to pose as legitimate firms.
Protect against this by being suspicious of everything, especially correspondence claiming to be from your bank or a retailer you shopped at that tries to convince you to share highly sensitive information, such as passwords. Never share personal information on an unfamiliar website or via email. If you get a request like this always contact the company using a phone number you're familiar with. Explain the request and find out if it's a legitimate one. If it's not, get a commitment from the company explaining what they'll do to protect the security of your accounts and information.
Tip: Increase online security by changing your passwords regularly and using smart ones that include capital letters, symbols and numbers.