Managing Your Cybersecurity: 7 Ways to Protect Yourself Online

Managing Your Cybersecurity: 7 Ways to Protect Yourself Online

By: Charles Perez, Vice President Infrastructure & Operations

Date: September 15, 2022

Every day, our reliance on digital technology continues to increase. Smartphones and computers are now relied upon every day, whether it’s for school, work or leisure. With that reliance comes a responsibility to be vigilant when clicking on links and submitting information.

Woman shopping online with Affinity Credit card

In 2020, nearly 800,000 cases of cyber fraud were reported1 across the U.S., totaling losses of more than $4 billion dollars. While the number of cases rose just seven percent to 847,000 in 2021, the bad actors behind these events have become increasingly bold. Incidents of fraud last year cost Americans $6.9 billion, a 60 percent rise from the prior year.

Preventing one bad decision on the internet from impacting your wallet hinges on what you do, and don’t do when you’re making payments or browsing the web. Below are seven ways you can be proactive, ensuring your hard-earned money won’t be stolen and your financial information remains secure.

Beware of malware and use the tools that prevent it: Malware includes various types of hardware, software or firmware2 that can be intentionally included or inserted into a computer system or network with the goal of stealing information. While smartphones and computers come with security software installed to fight off these threats, it’s up to you to be sure the protection remains up to date. With computers, it’s important to install any updates when you’re prompted. On smartphones, download a trusted security application if your phone doesn’t already have one. If your phone lacks a security feature or if you’d like an added layer of protection, do your research on the top security apps before putting one on your phone.

Use an email spam filter: A common way for computers to get infected with malware and fall victim to other types of cybercrime is through email. Most email programs have spam filters that sort out seemingly suspicious messages. However, this technology is not foolproof. For that reason, you should check your spam folder periodically for messages that come from senders you don’t recognize and delete them.

Beware of the sender and attachments: While the spam filter is an important tool, there is no single solution to protecting your inbox. Pay attention to the messages that enter your inbox. If a note comes from an account you don’t recognize, carefully review the message and click the dropdown menu to review the sender information. Never click on any links or attachments that seem suspicious. If you question the legitimacy of a message, delete it right away. They can also come from known senders as well so be sure that if requests are urgent or seem suspicious. For example, a random message from friend asking you to wire them money then you will want to verify and delete.

Beware of the websites you visit and where you submit personal information: Be sure the connection to any website you visit is safe by looking at the address bar on your browser. It should show a lock icon, which means the connection is secure and encrypted. If you’re looking for a deal and shopping on the internet, instead of through an app, be sure you’re finding those deals on reputable websites. If a website is unsecure or looks questionable, look elsewhere for a product or service. Remember– you never need to submit anything beyond your name, address, contact information and payment card information when making a purchase through a credible online retailer.

Make your passwords unique and know where to save them: It may feel like a burden but it’s best to make as many unique passwords as you can for your online accounts. With that comes the difficulty of remembering them all and having the wherewithal to know where to store that information. While a number of browsers like Google Chrome offer the option of saving your login information whenever you access an online account, it’s best to keep this information elsewhere. Use two-factor authentication apps like LastPass, which allow you to store your usernames and passwords for every account you use on your phone and computer.

Keep an eye on your financial accounts and statements: Fraudsters are more sophisticated than ever before. For that reason, it’s possible some personal data may be stolen as part of a wide-scale effort, such as a data breach. It’s important to keep an eye on your checking, savings and investment accounts to be sure there are no improper charges listed on your statements.

Monitor your credit: Credit monitoring services will flag any suspicious activity for you. Affinity partners with FICO to provide members with a free credit score3, updated quarterly. Be sure to also review your credit reports through Experian and TransUnion, which team up with a number of financial services organizations to provide their users with free access to reports.

If you ever feel you have become a victim of a cyber crime, call our member services line immediately at 800-325-0808. For more information on how to protect yourself and prevent any instance of fraud, visit the Security Center on the Affinity website4.

This information is for informational purposes only and is intended to provide general guidance and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person’s circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments.

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