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Internet Fraud and Theft: How To Protect Yourself

We live in the digital age and it’s an exciting time for innovation. People from every corner of the world can communicate and share ideas. With only your phone in your hand you have access to unlimited amounts of information. Despite all of the exciting opportunities it affords us, the simplicity of information sharing is a double edged sword. We share so much of our lives online that it can be easy to forget how important it is to protect our identity. Storing important information online poses a serious risk for identity theft or internet fraud – if the proper cyber security measures aren’t taken.

What is Identity Theft and Internet Fraud?

Identity theft and fraud is a serious crime where someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in a fraudulent or deceptive way, usually with the intent for economic gain. It can occur in public places with criminals seeing your credit card number. It can occur when you open spam emails that request identifying data.

Once the criminal has your information they can commit a range of crimes like:

  • Apply for a loan or credit card in your name
  • Make withdrawals from your bank accounts
  • Obtain other goods or privileges the criminal might be denied when using his or her own name.

While the threat of identity theft and internet fraud can feel daunting, don’t panic! You don’t have to be a computer wiz to use simple safety practices that will keep you, and your identity, safe online. The Department of Banking and Securities released a video to help consumers learn how to protect themselves online. We’ve broken down the main steps you can take to protect yourself online so you can start practicing cyber safety today.

Know Who’s Contacting You

Sometimes identity theft doesn’t require much theft. Victims can accidentally give criminals their information and not recognize their mistake until it’s too late. You can avoid this by never responding to emails, phone calls, or texts from unrecognized sources asking you for your personal information. You wouldn’t hand your house keys over to a stranger just because they knocked on the door, why would you do that with your personal information?

Shop Smart

While still being a relatively new form of commerce, online shopping has grown leaps and bounds over the past few decades with no signs of slowing down. Over 80% of Americans have shopped online within the past ten years – making it an excellent target for cyber crime. When shopping online, look for the little lock symbol next to the url that starts with https://. When a website has this, it means that it is secure.

Have a Good Password

You may think that you have a good password but chances are it’s not as secure as you may think. Every online password should have a total of at least 8 uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and characters. You’ll want to avoid using birthdays or family member names or anything else that could be easily guessed. It’s not only important for your password to be strong it also needs to be specific to each account. Using a different password for your different accounts minimizes the damage that can be done if a criminal gets a hold of your password.

Beware of Suspicious Downloads

Only download from websites you know and trust. More often than not you’ll be able to tell the difference between a reputable site and a questionable site by just taking a look at it. Only download from sites that are well established and easy to recognize. A good rule of thumb is that if you’re feeling nervous about downloading from a site, trust your gut and don’t do it.

Use Wifi You Can Trust

There are few public places and stores that don’t have wifi and many businesses and public spaces will make their wifi available to the public. The safest way to secure your information is to not use public wifi at all – however that can be impractical and really eat up your data. If you do use public wifi, avoid doing anything online that requires sharing personal information or making financial transactions.

My Identity was Stolen – Now What?

Timing is everything with identity theft or internet fraud, the quicker you react, the easier it is to minimize the damage. This means that vigilance is a crucial part of protecting your identity. Check your bank accounts regularly and take special care to look for suspicious activity. Report suspected identity theft right away to your financial institutions and then you can contact the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities for more assistance.

We’ve Got you Covered

If you are still concerned about your cyber security, contact a Union Community Bank Trusted Advisor today to learn more about the ways we keep your banking secure.


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