Become your best defence: Keep your financial information safe in an increasingly digital world
Many of us are spending a lot more time online as we adopt new ways of tackling everyday tasks – be it working, staying connected, shopping or banking. October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, and while it’s important to stay vigilant all year long, it’s always a good idea to be aware of some of the common schemes fraudsters use and take steps to proactively protect your financial information.
Here are a few simple guidelines to help you stay safe online amid a general rise in fraud and cybercrimes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Be aware of unsolicited calls, emails and texts
Emails or texts can sometimes appear to be from a legitimate source, but can contain infected attachments or malicious links. Threatening or urgent tones, spelling errors, unknown senders or callers can all be red flags that a message might not be legitimate. Keep your computer anti-virus and anti-malware programs up to date to help keep your files from being corrupted or lost in the event your computer does get affected by a virus. There are also many apps or services offered by telecom providers that provide caller ID. These apps/services typically allow you to block and report callers. This adds another layer of protection against scammers.
Steer clear of public Wi-fi
Public Wi-Fi networks have become increasingly available in common spaces like shopping malls, cafes, and downtown centres. While it can be tempting to connect and limit your data usage, it’s important to understand that the convenience of public Wi-Fi comes with security risks. Criminals can intercept any information that you send while using public Wi-Fi, such as passwords or online banking information. In order to keep your information safe while connected, avoid logging into any accounts with private or sensitive information like your bank accounts and always be aware of who is around you.
Be vigilant when shopping online
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in online shopping. It’s an easy way to get what you need and the choices often seem limitless. But the process of browsing online can sometimes be a slippery slope. With so many options available, it’s easy to find yourself jumping between websites comparing different brands and prices. One way to protect yourself is to read reviews of retailers you are thinking of buying from to ensure they’re legitimate and trustworthy businesses. That way you can feel confident before you head to the virtual “checkout”.
Watch out for fake websites
Fake websites can spread misinformation or attempt to scam individuals. Be on the lookout for spelling errors in web addresses, or a missing security symbol in the address bar – that’s the lock symbol or an “s” at the end of the “http” in the address bar, which can confirm a site’s security. Don’t enter login information or credit card details unless you’re certain a site is legitimate. Any web address that is not preceded by “https” should ring an alarm for you.
Use strong, unique passwords
Strong passwords can help ensure you’re protecting your devices and information. Avoid using the same password for multiple applications or services, and don’t opt for obvious passwords like family or pet names, birthdays and street names.
As a best practice, use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters with a minimum of eight characters. Think of passwords that only you can remember, change them regularly, and create a new password for every application or service you use. Yes, I agree this requires effort, but we live in an age where we need to be extra cautious in order to protect our personal information.
And always remember, there is never a reason for someone to ask you for your online banking password – even if they claim to be a representative from your financial institution. Banks will never ask you for that information by email, text or phone.
Keep software and browsers up to date
The operating systems on your devices have built-in security features, but they need to be kept up to date to help avoid breaches of your personal information. The browser you use to search the internet also has its own security settings and requires updating. Though they may be bothersome, don’t ignore prompts to update your operating system or browser.
You may want to consider enabling automatic updates or try setting a reminder to update your device when you won’t be using it.
For more information on keeping yourself safe online, visit https://www.rbc.com/cyber-security/.