October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month
Being aware of the warning signs that a scammer is trying to access your financial or personal information for nefarious purposes is essential in today’s digital world. As technology evolves, so do the scams; here are some solid cybersecurity practices that you can use to protect yourself:
Use strong, unique passwords:
- Create complex passwords with a combination of upper and lower-case letters, numbers, symbols, and even phrases.
- Use a different password for each online account to prevent a breach of one account compromising others.
- Consider using a reputable password manager to generate and store your passwords securely.
Enable two-factor authentication (2FA):
- Whenever possible, enable 2FA on your accounts – this adds an extra layer of security by requiring you to provide a second authentication method (such as a one-time code sent to your phone or biometrics through your device) in addition to your password.
Keep software and system updated:
- Regularly update your operating system, software applications, and antivirus programs to patch vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit.
Use a secure network:
- Avoid using public wi-fi for sensitive transactions like accessing online banking or making online purchases, unless you use a VPN (virtual private network) to encrypt your connection.
- Secure your home network with a strong password and encryption, and regularly update router firmware.
- When communicating sensitive information, use encrypted email or encrypted messaging apps like Signal or WhatsApp to ensure your messages are secure.
Secure your devices:
- Use device-level security features like biometric authentication, and lock screens with PINs or passwords. This prevents unauthorized access to your devices if they are lost or stolen.
- Install security software and keep it up to date on all your devices.
Regularly monitor your accounts:
- Routinely review your banking and credit card accounts for any unauthorized transactions, and notify your financial institution right away if you find anything fraudulent.
- Check your credit reports regularly for any suspicious activity.
Beware of phishing, vishing and smishing attempts:
- Be cautious of unsolicited emails, messages, or calls that ask for personal or financial information. Always verify the legitimacy of requests for sensitive information before responding, like handing up and calling your financial institution directly.
- Avoid downloading files or clicking on links in emails or text messages from unknown or questionable sources. They can contain malware that will be downloaded to your computer or device.
- Verify the source of attachments when possible, and only open those that you trust.
- Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats and best practices.
- Train yourself and your family members about online safety – especially children!
There are many variations on the scams that fraudsters use to trick unsuspecting victims, but the most common ones are:
- “Quick money” scams – these are messages promising instant money, often in exchange for a portion of the funds. Scammers may present this opportunity as cash-prize contests, rebate programs, or lawyers representing the estate of wealthy distant relatives. Another way is sending a check for a purchase for more than the amount of the item or service, and then asking the victim to cash or deposit the check and send them the extra amount – meanwhile, the check is fraudulent and the victim is stuck with the loss. These offers should be a red flag because they are simply too good to be true – especially if you’ve never entered the contest or purchased the product for rebate! A newer variation of a quick money scam involves using cash apps like Venmo. For example, fraudsters might offer to overpay via a cash app for something you’re selling online, and use an official-looking email supposedly from the cash app requesting an extra fee to perform the transaction. They’ll convince you to reimburse them for the overpayment – all the while, their initial transfer to you will turn out to be fraudulent (funded by a stolen credit card, for instance) and the amount will be deducted back from your account from the cash app company when a dispute is filed for the stolen card.
- “Sweetheart” scams – this trick uses emotional manipulation to gain the trust of a target. This often occurs through dating sites and social media, and usually this person lives in another city or even another country. For example, an online acquaintance eventually confesses they have feelings for you (even though you have never met). They request a check, money order, wire transfer, or your bank account information from you because they need urgent financial help. Another variation of this scam targets elderly people, making a call or email posing as a grandchild in distress who needs money immediately to help get them out of trouble by “posting bail” to a personal bank account.
- “Imposter” scams – like the others, there are many variations of imposter scams. Popular tactics include posing as the government, IRS, or law enforcement through emails, calls, and text messages threatening legal action unless you take some sort of immediate action or provide certain personal information such as Social Security Number, address, etc. One of the most prevalent imposter scams are fraudsters impersonating a financial institutions to collect personal information to steal money or takeover accounts. Please remember that Cutting Edge Credit Union and other financial institutions will never contact you unexpectedly to ask you for sensitive information such as your SSN, full debit or credit card numbers, bank account numbers, or online banking passwords. Our fraud department may contact you to verify specific transaction activity, but will not ask you to provide your account numbers, etc.
Remember that cybersecurity is an ongoing, evolving process trying to stay ahead of the scammers. Staying safe online requires education and your constant vigilance! Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you believe your Cutting Edge accounts my have been compromised due to a scammer – we have tools and resources to help.