It may have already happened to you. If you’re a customer of Target, T-Mobile, Experian or even an employee of the federal government, you’ve been the victim of a cybercrime. In 2015 alone, there were more than 490,000 identity-theft cases reported in the U.S, according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, including 15,684 in Michigan alone!
Tax ID theft is the most common reported type of ID theft, and it happens to people in every age group.
You should know by now that it’s not a good idea to use the same password for every account, and that children and pets’ names make for terrible passwords, because they can be easily guessed. You may also know to avoid opening emails from people you don’t know, or from people requesting that you provide them with personal information.
So, while my blog often highlights ways to grow your nest egg, today I’m going to talk about five more common-sense ways you can – and should – protect your online accounts.
- Create an email account just for your personal finances, and use it ONLY to communicate with the institutions that have access to your account or personal information. When you set it up, add all of your financial companies to your address book, and treat all other email as junk. That means no online shopping using this email account, and no sharing the account with others. Doing this can help you control potential spam and phishing emails.
- Consider using an email forwarding service to protect your other email accounts. Forwarding services auto-generate an email address for you to use when requesting information or subscribing to something on an unfamiliar website (leemail.com and 33mail.com are two examples). The service then forwards any mail from the company to your real email address, which protects your address from being shared. If you decide you no longer want to receive email from that business, you can just shut off that auto-generated email address.
- Use file encryptions. If you need to send documents with your personal information via email, password-protect the files and phone the recipient to provide the password information.
- Use Tor as your browser. Tor is a free, open-source browser that prevents others from analyzing what sites you visit, or from learning your physical location. Websites are unable to track Tor users, so they stay anonymous. Be sure to check the list of additional security warnings provided by Tor before you download.
- Keep the other software on your computer up to date. That includes virus software, but also the other software you use on a daily basis for documents, spreadsheets or design. Software updates often include patches to correct vulnerabilities, so it’s important to download them regularly.
At AMDG Financial, your privacy and security are important to us. We take the following steps on our side to ensure your account never becomes compromised:
We share your personal information only with providers required to support our service to you. We use mail-forwarding; our incoming emails are scanned by multiple spam and virus stripping mail filters before they ever arrive in our internal computing environment. We use enterprise-wide virus protection on our internal servers and workstation connections. We use a virtual private network with encryption for accessing our network from outside our network when we work remotely. Our website is hosted by a third-party service provider to keep our internal computing environment and your personal data separate from our web presence (an attempt to keep the internet gateway connection to our internal systems anonymous). We use tools, like Docusign, to securely obtain your electronic signature on applications or other important forms, and we send or request personal information using secure tools like Sharefile. While these procedures may be adequate today, we need to be diligent in choosing our tools, vigilant in monitoring changes in the security environment around our personal information, and nimble in implementing those changes. We encourage you to do the same.
We will never ask you for personal information in an email, and we do not share client information with third parties unrelated to your account. If ever you have questions about our cybersecurity practices or how you can improve yours, I encourage you to contact us. We’d be glad to talk to you.