Protecting Your Identity and Financial Information Against Current Threats

woman touching hologram of a lock

Being online exposes us to cyber criminals and others who commit identity theft, fraud, and harassment. Every time we connect to the Internet—at home, at school, at work, or on our mobile devices—we make decisions that affect our cybersecurity. Emerging cyber threats require engagement from the entire community to create a safer cyber environment—from government and law enforcement to the private sector and, most importantly, members of the public.

How do you avoid being a victim of identity fraud?

Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, visits, or email messages from individuals asking about employees or other internal information. If an unknown individual claims to be from a legitimate organization, try to verify his or her identity directly with the company.

  • Do not reveal personal or financial information in email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information. This includes following links received in an email.
  • Don't send sensitive information over the internet before checking a website's security. (See Protecting Your Privacy for more information.)
    • Pay attention to the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) of a website. Look for URLs that begin with "https"—an indication that sites are secure—rather than "http.”
    • Look for a closed padlock icon—a sign your information will be encrypted.
  • If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Do not use contact information provided on a website connected to the request; instead, check previous statements for contact information. Information about known phishing attacks is also available online from groups such as the Anti-Phishing Working Group {[email protected]}.

How can you protect your information online?

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 Sunflower Bank 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 passphrase. The longer the passphrase, 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(Opens in a new window) 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 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

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 into 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 must enter a PIN code as well. These extra layers add another level of security and make it harder for hackers to steal your information.

Step 6: Install and Maintain Security Services

Installing on your computer certain security services such as anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters can help reduce some of this malicious traffic. (See Understanding Firewalls for Home and Small Office Use(Opens in a new window), Protecting Against Malicious Code(Opens in a new window), and Reducing Spam(Opens in a new window) for more information.)

How to protect yourself from phone scams

In addition to the above steps to protect yourself online, here are some specific actions you can take to ensure you do fall victim to your account being taken over by a malicious actor looking to commit fraud.

Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls from individuals who identify themselves as Guardian Mortgage employees calling to help you with an unexpected issue. These scammers often impersonate company personnel attempting to trick you and claim you have fraud on your debit card or that you need to update your account information.

Action: If you receive a call similar to this, do not follow the caller’s instructions. Hang up the phone and contact your Mortgage Loan Officer directly or call Guardian Mortgage Servicing at 800.331.4799.

Never give out your online login credentials, your bank account number, or other personal information. This includes but is not limited to, your social security number, date of birth, account number and personal identification numbers. Fraudsters will commonly use a tactic called spoofing to make their caller ID appear to be from your financial institution to try and establish credibility and trust.

Action: If you receive a call and you’re not sure the validity, promptly end the call and contact the Guardian Mortgage directly. Guardian Mortgage will never call, text, or email you to ask you for your account number or PIN#, login credentials for the online portal (username, password), secure access codes, or unique tokens. If a caller is using pressure to make you act or share your personal information with them, pause to evaluate the situation and what you are being asked to do. Tell them you’ll have to call them back and hang up.

Action: Call the Guardian Mortgage servicing department directly and ask a representative to investigate the issue. When in doubt, you can always contact us directly at 800.331.4799.

What do you do if you think you are a victim of a fraud scam?

Guardian Mortgage has 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.

Additional reference information

The following is a list of additional educational information to help keep you informed and aware of the protecting yourself in this digital age.