Smart Giving This Holiday Season

As we wrap up a year to remember, it’s time to take some steps to protect ourselves in the New Year. No, we’re not talking about social distancing and wearing masks (although those are important), we’re talking about cyber security. Isn’t it ironic that something that makes our lives so much easier can, in the blink of an eye, turn those same lives completely upside down? And now that so many people continue to work from home, it’s even more important that we take steps to secure our home computers/electronic devices just as we do for our work computers.

In hopes of getting off to a good start in 2021, we present a few cyber-security resolutions for the New Year:

Be sure you have a password on your phone – These days, our phones go just about everywhere with us, which means that there are countless places where we can forget them. While we believe that most people are honest and will turn in your phone if they find it, there are those out there with less than honorable intentions. Don’t make it easy for them. Secure your phone with a passcode that’s required every time you use it. This quick 4 or 6 digit number will go a long way toward making your phone useless to someone trying to access your information. Worried about needing to use it in an emergency situation? Just about all phone models these days offer an emergency call option that allows someone to call 911 without having the phone password.

Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access financial apps on your phone – Ready to make a large purchase but can’t remember how much you have in your account? Just click on the banking app on your phone and get all the information you need. BUT WAIT! If you’re accessing that banking app via public Wi-Fi, STOP!!! You have no idea who’s around you just waiting for someone to slip up and enter their password that can then be intercepted through the public Wi-Fi. The next thing you know, there goes your money, your credit card details or even your personal details such as date of birth or Social Security number.

Watch out for quizzes and games on social media – So many social media networks are fun to use to keep in touch with family and friends, get a quick laugh from a funny animal video or find an amazing recipe for your next get together. There are even quizzes you can take to get to know your online friends better and discover new things you have in common. However, before you participate, stop for a moment and think about what they’re asking. How many times have you seen a question asking about your favorite teacher, where you went on your honeymoon or your first pet’s name? Sure those things can be fun to share but think about where else you see those types of questions…as identity verification questions for online bank, credit card and investment accounts. Yes, the bad guys may be paying attention to your FB quizzes. One shocking example: Someone posted a question that asked, “If your bank account matched your Social Security number, how much would you have in the bank?” And guess what? PEOPLE ANSWERED! We are not kidding. Please take a moment to think about the possibility that there may be other people besides your long-lost high school BFF who are reading this information.

Use an anti-virus program to keep your electronic devices protected – Nothing is foolproof but investing in a cost-effective virus protection program is a very positive step in the right direction. There are several options that are quite reasonably priced, especially when you consider the pain, aggravation and money they can save you in the long run.

We’re heading into a brand new year with promising developments on the horizon. Don’t let a case of cyber-theft ruin it for you!


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