Are you doing the simple things to protect yourself from internet fraud? With security breaches occurring at well-known companies like Equifax, Target and K-Mart, you need to be proactive to keep your finances secured.

The following checklist outlines a number of preventive measures that will assist you in combating the constant onslaught of internet fraud. Hopefully you have implemented some of them already, but the more the better.

  1. Are you checking your credit report at least annually for inaccurate information?

Best Practice – Check your credit every four months with a different credit bureau. Each of the three major credit bureaus is required, by law, to provide you one free credit report annually.

  1. Do you use complex passwords?

Best practice – Passwords should not be words and should always include numbers and keyboard symbols. Passwords should be at least 10 characters.

  1. Do you keep your passwords in a safe place?

Best practice – You should not store your passwords on your device.

  1. If available, do you use two-step verification?

Two-step verification is a process that involves two authentication methods performed one after the other to verify that someone requesting access is who they are declared to be. Two-step verification adds an additional layer of security to your account. The first step is your password. The second step involves receiving a security code via one of a variety of ways depending on the option selected by the user, including text message, email or phone call. The security code is then entered as a second password.

Best practice – Always use two-step verification if it is offered. It only takes an additional 20 seconds and it is well worth the “inconvenience” of an additional login step.

  1. Do you have a freeze on your credit reports?

Effective September 21, 2018, credit bureaus can no longer charge for credit freezes. Under the new law, Equifax, Experian and TransUnion will be required to let consumers freeze and unfreeze their credit reports free of charge. They must also implement procedures to make it easier for consumers to do this.

Best practice – Keep your credit reports frozen at all times. Unfreeze them only when you know a third party will be requesting your credit reports.

  1. Do you get alerts from your bank and credit cards for transactions over a certain amount?

Transaction alerts are instantaneous, so if you see an alert for a purchase or transaction that you didn’t make, it’s easy to contact your bank or credit card company and shut down the fraudulent activity. Alerts can be received via text or email.

Best practice – Set up alerts with a low threshold so you can monitor your banking and credit card transactions for unauthorized use.

  1. Do you shred documents that contain your ID?

Best practice – Use a simple home base shredder on a regular basis. If your community offers shredding days, take advantage of this service.

As a Certified Fraud Examiner, I observe all kinds of fraud on a regular basis. I do the following in order to reduce the likelihood of internet fraud affecting me:

  1. I use complex passwords.
  2. I do not trust cloud password storage sites. I keep all my passwords on a handwritten ledger in a secure place. I keep a second copy at another location in case of fire or theft.
  3. I always use two-step verification when available.
  4. I get texts from my bank and credit cards for all transactions over $10 and other alerts. This drives my wife crazy, but significantly increases the likelihood that we will quickly identify any fraudulent transactions.
  5. I shred all my ID documents on a regular basis using a basic shredder I purchased from Staples for $29.
  6. All of my credit reports are frozen.
  7. I thoroughly review all of my bank and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions.
  8. I change credit card numbers at least every other year. After the Equifax security breach, I requested all new credit card numbers.
  9. I never answer unknown phone calls.
  10. I never open unsolicited emails – I never click on links from unknown email sources for fear it is a bogus email trying to get personal information. Basically, I never give out personal information that I did not initiate.
  11. I have anti-virus software on my computer.
  12. I never use a third-party WI-FI (hotel, restaurant, etc.) to conduct financial transactions.
  13. I have passwords on my cell phone and tablet.

As a society we are becoming more and more reliant on the internet. At the same time, internet fraud is becoming even more prevalent. Therefore, it is imperative that you are proactive in securing your financial information – don’t simply rely solely on third-party controls (which have failed in the past and will fail again in the future – just ask Equifax, Target or K-Mart).

Do you have questions about how you can protect yourself from internet fraud? Contact Howard Klein, CPA/CFE/CIRA/CVA, at 440-449-6800 or email Howard.

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