The pandemic was proven fertile ground for fraud that continues today. In 2020, 4.8 million identity theft and fraud reports were received by the FTC, up 43% from 2019*. Your financial information is highly valuable and extremely important. Information including your credit card numbers, bank account numbers, financial statements, credit ratings and payment histories all contain prized information that can be used to steal your identity and your hard-earned money.
It’s important to take proactive measures to prevent your financial information from falling into the hands of opportunistic criminals. Follow these five steps from to help keep your financial information secure:
Step 1: Follow Good Password Practices
Studies show that there are around 15 billion stolen account logins up for grabs on the dark web**. Stolen from bank accounts, social media and music services, these account usernames and passwords sell for as little as $15, but can cause a world of trouble for the victim.
When creating new passwords, make your passwords complex and complicated to help increase your cybersecurity. Don’t use easily hacked passwords such as your name, birthday or address. Common passwords including “password,” “qwerty” and “123456” should also be avoided. You may consider using a password generator to help you create more secure passwords.
Another option is to use an easy-to-remember pass-phrase. The longer the pass-phrase, the better. For example, you could use the lyrics to a favorite song, or an acronym that only you know.
Once you’ve created your password, ensure it is secure. Don’t share your password with others or write it in a location that is easily accessible. Use different passwords for each of your accounts. That way if one is compromised your remaining accounts will remain safe. Password managers are one of the best ways to keep your passwords protected and easily accessible only to you.
Step 2: Stay Alert for Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are fraudulent attempts to gain your personal information, steal your money or convince you to put malware on your device. These attempts can come in the form of emails, texts and phone calls from devious actors. One of the most common scams is posing as a bank. With your password/PIN, security question answers, and other personal information in hand, they can easily commit identity theft and steal money from you.
Don’t fall victim to a phishing scam. These scams are typically easy to spot if you know what to look for – including poor grammar, attempts to impart a feeling of urgency, and generic greetings. To learn more about phishing and how to avoid bank scams and protect your personal information, read our “What Is Phishing?” blog with more detailed phishing information.
Step 3: Don’t Share Personal Information
Social media is a common place for oversharing. Criminals are wise to this, and can use your posts to socially engineer their way into your accounts. Once in your account, they can take things over and spy on you to gain desired information, or even pose as you to request information from friends and followers.
Don’t share identifying information with anyone. This includes friends who send you messages through social media … chances are they may have been hacked. Identifying information includes your address, phone number, names of family members, and school names as well as all of the account and personal numbers you typically think of – such as your Social Security number.
Step 4: Monitor Your Accounts and Credit Report
Customers with Sunflower Bank and First National 1870 bank accounts can access tools to help monitor their bank accounts and credit for fraud.
Through the free fraud text alert program, you may receive real-time text alerts asking you to validate purchases on your debit card when fraud is suspected. When the bank sees purchases take place outside of your ordinary spending habits – including your typical spending range and locations – you are sent a text alert asking you to respond YES or NO to verify the transaction that triggered the alert. It’s that simple and helps protect you from fraudulent spending.
In addition to monitoring your accounts, you should also keep a regular eye on your credit report. Your credit score impacts many aspects of your life, from your ability to get a loan to finding a place to live. The Credit Sense service allows you to keep on top of your credit and ensure all is in order. It provides instant access to your credit score and credit report without a hard pull on your credit – so you can check it as often as desired.
If you do not have access to our online banking services, and want to see your credit report, you can obtain a free copy once every 12 months at AnnualCreditReport.com.
Step 5: Use Multi-Factor Authentication
When offered, always take advantage of multi-factor authentication sign-in processes. Multi-factor authentication or two-step authentication adds another layer of protection for users. By adding a second authentication step, your accounts and information are more secure.
For example, when you attempt to sign in to an account from your computer you will get a text to your phone with a verification code. This way, you will know if someone is trying to log in to your account without your permission, and you can disallow it. Or, when using a debit card, instead of simply swiping the card, you have to enter a PIN code as well. These extra layers add another level of security, and make it harder for hackers to steal your information.
We have a variety of systems in place to protect your financial information, but you are your most important protector. Follow the steps outlined above and keep a close eye on your information to ensure your credentials and financials aren’t stolen. If you do believe you’ve been a victim of fraud, call us immediately at 800.331.4799 or contact your MLO.
* “What 4.8 Million Scams Look Like”, Bloomberg, July 2, 2021.
** “New Dark Web Audit Reveals 15 Billion Stolen Logins From 100,000 Breaches”, Forbes, July 8, 2020.