How to Protect Yourself from Data Breaches and Internet Scams

Published on October 25th, 2016

The holiday season is creeping closer and hackers are trying harder to breech your account data. Be careful what kind of shopping you do online and how you use your credit and debit cards online and at stores. Follow the steps below to protect yourself from fraudulent charges and identity theft. Our vLoan team wants to make sure you reach your financial goals this winter, so be smart about your money and stop hackers in their tracks.

Change all of your passwords

We get it, changing passwords is a pain and there are so many of them! But that’s the best thing you can do when your data has been compromised. Use a secure password that contains at least one uppercase, several lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Use different passwords for all of your accounts, especially your financial and bank accounts. This also includes your PIN for your debit or credit cards.

Check your credit card and debit card statements online daily

Almost every bank has an online portal or app that you can use to check your statements and see your purchases and debits in real time. Set aside a specific time each day to go online and check your balance. Go through each line and make sure it matches up with your checkbook. You can also set up automatic e-mail alerts whenever you withdraw or deposit money from your account. If you see any suspicious activity, call your bank right away for more information or to put a hold on the card. Most credit card thieves make a couple few smaller purchases before they make a big purchase or go to an ATM and withdraw all of your money.

Beware of Phone and Email Scams

After a big data breach, hackers will try to get more information out of you by contacting you via e-mail address or phone number. Some phone callers will claim they are from your bank, the IRS or a store you recently shopped at.  Some callers will try to offer you money, prizes, special services or may even request money for charitable causes. They may ask for social security numbers, PIN and other things to “verify” your identity. Hang up right away. Pre-recorded calls, or robocalls, usually try to sell you something and you can report your experience with the FTC.

Don’t email any of your sensitive information

This is important to remember at all times but especially if your email address has been stolen. Email is not a secure medium to share documents so make sure you do not send your mortgage advisor, banker, HR department or even your own mother any financial documents with your personal information on them.

Enroll in identity protection services

Many bankers offer this service to their existing customers for free so take advantage when you can. Companies such as Target and Home Depot have offered free protection services after their own systems were hacked to potential victims. You may also contact a credit bureau (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion) to notify you of any attempts to open an account in your name.

Stay safe this holiday season and off the radar of scammers and hackers. Achieve your financial goals with confidence knowing that your information is locked up tight! Reach out to a mortgage advisor today if you have any questions about how refinancing could help your financial flow. Get a free rate quote to explore your options.

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