It’s sad, but there are people trying to get something for nothing and looking for the easiest way to obtain financial gain. Financial assets are a prime target for many get-rich-quick schemes. Individuals tend to be prone to fraud with weaker defenses and less complicated “hoops” to jump through than a business or financial institution has.
How can you protect your financial assets?
While we can’t cover all the risks and protection methods here, we encourage you to use this information as a starting point to help prevent you or someone you know from being the next victim. Here are some standard security best practices:
- NEVER share your online banking user ID and password with anyone. A financial institution should never ask you for this information. Always be suspicious of anyone who would ask for this information.
- Be skeptical if “friends” or other people you meet online ask you for money. If you have never met in person or do not personally know the individual, don’t send money or provide any sensitive account or login information.
- Beware of mystery shopping, advertising promotions, online loan offers and/or other proposed job opportunities you find online. These types of scams will send you a check and request your login credentials. They may also ask you to purchase gift cards, requesting that you send them a portion of the funds. By the time you figure out it’s a scam, the scammer is long gone.
- Check your account balances and activities regularly. That way you’re the first to notice if something suspicious is happening on your checking or credit card accounts.
- Practice safe computing techniques. Log off your systems when you’re finished. If you are on a public computer, do not walk away while logged in. It is also good to clear the browser’s cache and close the browser window when you are finished. Install antivirus, anti-malware and firewalls on your systems. Apply operating system patches and updates regularly. You’ll also want to use strong passwords and limit access to your devices.
- Practice safe email usage. Use unique passwords for all accounts. Watch for phishing and social engineering scams, where people pretend to be someone else to get information from you or entice you to open an attachment or click a link that takes you to a bogus site and/or installs malicious software on your system.
- Don’t click on links in emails unless you are sure they are legitimate. Pick up the phone and call the person (at the number you have on file for them) if you question an email or attachment. When in doubt, throw it out. If you didn’t request it, don’t recognize it, or attachments or links seem suspicious, just delete the message.
- Use the internet safely. There are several pieces of good advice here. Be careful what you download from the internet. Use privacy settings and be cautious about what you post online. Be cautious of online offers – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do not enter personal or sensitive information on an insecure site. Be sure the URL starts with “https://” if you are entering this type of information. And last, watch for look-a-like sites. Anyone can purchase a web address and create a web page by copying a logo and other information. Make sure the site you are going to is the correct/legitimate site before you enter any information or transact any business.
What about my debit and credit cards?
Isn’t it great how credit and debit cards make purchasing items much easier? There is no need to carry cash, write a check or plan ahead. But with ease, comes risk. Here are some techniques to be more secure when using your cards:
- Keep a record of account numbers, expiration dates and the phone number and address of the issuing companies. If your card is lost or stolen, you will be able to quickly report it.
- Save your receipts and compare them to the billing or account statement regularly.
- If possible, keep an eye on your card during the transaction and get it back as quickly as possible.
- Be sure to report any questionable charges promptly.
- Notify the company immediately if your card is lost or stolen.
- Don’t lend your card to anyone and do not give out the card information over the phone unless you are certain you are making a call to a company you know is reputable.
- Be sure to sign your cards. While not all merchants actually look at the signature on the back, if you have it signed, you do take away some of the risk if they do happen to check.
Don’t worry, it’s not all bad!
While it may seem like there are many risks, Online banking, the internet, debit/credit cards and email all are valuable tools to make your life more efficient, get information quicker, stay in touch with friends and family and manage your resources.
The answer is not to avoid using these tools. You just need to be sure that when you use them, you remain aware of the risks and take the necessary steps to prevent fraud and theft from occurring.
By practicing the fraud prevention techniques discussed here, you can increase the probability that your experiences will be positive and the rewards will outweigh the risk.
For additional fraud prevention and internet security tips, we recommend you visit the Department of Homeland Security website for their Stop. Think. Connect. Toolkit. The Bank of Missouri’s website also offers information for protecting your online banking account as well as additional security information.