Jazmin Garcia, Community Relations Officer, San Diego County Credit Union
With so much of our daily lives involving online activity, passwords hold the key to access most of your personal information. How secure do you keep your passwords and what steps do you take to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of phishing, fraud or scams? SDCCU has some great safety tips to help you protect your passwords, personal information and financial data.
Create a Strong Password: When creating a password, try not to choose one that can be directly linked to your personal information, like your birthdate, address, dog’s name, favorite items or anything that is easily guessed. This will ensure that only you know the password, making it difficult for a criminal to guess. The longer the password, the harder it will be to crack. Experts suggest, you use a minimum of 8 characters or more and passphrases with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. For example, if you use the phrase “I love dogs,” you could create your password to look like this: I*L0v3*d*0g$. Another good rule of thumb is to remember to never repeat your passwords across multiple accounts. It is a good practice to add multifactor password authentication to your accounts to provide extra security. This process will send a code via text or phone call to enter when logging into your accounts as an additional security step. Some providers will even display the location of a device that has attempted to log into your account, which means you will know right away if a hacker is trying to gain access. Revisit your current passwords and implement these tips to help secure your accounts.
Be Aware of These Phishing Scams: Scam attempts are hard to avoid as they can take place in-person, over the phone, via text message, email or snail mail. One of the most recent and popular online scams is phishing. Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails or text messages purporting to be from reputable companies or individuals in order to persuade the recipient to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. If you receive this type of unrequested correspondence and the sender asks for your personal information such as logins, passwords, social security number or bank info, do not provide it and do not respond to the request. Be aware and diligent about opening emails and always check the address for extra letters or misspellings. Do not open suspicious links, texts, pop-up windows or attachments in emails, particularly if they are unsolicited. Emails and text messages are a popular method for scammers and are the fastest way to get into your personal devices. Phishers will typically request information such as: password verifications, social security, bank info, login info and confirmation of personal profile that includes your address, date of birth and more. Always trust your instincts and call the official company phone number directly to speak with a representative. Inform them of the request and ask if the correspondence sent to you has been verified as a legitimate request.
Other common schemes can include social media scams, money mule scams and charity scams. Charity scammers will often call you and ask for donations to a fake foundation, so always verify they are a legitimate organization. Another common form of fraud takes place on social media and involves a scammer sending you a personal message to let you know that you’ve won a prize. They will then ask for your personal information to claim a fake reward. A scammer might even ask you to send them money via gift cards or wire transfer with the promise of a reward at the end, but this is a tactic for scammers to launder money. Another great thing to remember when it comes to scams is that government agencies such as the Social Security Administration (SSI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not call, text or email you asking for money, ever.
If you think that you may have given out or compromised your password, change it right away and notify the relevant company and/or government agency. Be sure your antivirus software is current. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, it’s very likely that it’s not. Keep your eyes open to scam techniques and share these tips with others. If you suspect you have been targeted by a phishing scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
These basic tips will help guide you when creating your next password or updating your current ones. It is important to share this information with family and friends and spread the word to keep everyone protected. For more information and resources on how to help fight fraud, visit SDCCU’s webpage at sdccu.com/scams