Sponsored Content - Cybercriminals may lurk in the background, devising plans to steal personal financial information, but you can play an important role in safeguarding your information, says Christine Kieffer of the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.

As consumers spend more and more time online, cybercriminals continue to lurk in the background, devising plans to steal personal financial information. Remember, you play an important role in safeguarding your information.

What Are the Risks ?

Fraudsters steal customer information to gain unauthorized access to personal accounts. This may start with a phishing email that appears to come from a legitimate firm, asking for information your financial institution would never request through email—such as an account number, password, credit card number, or Social Security number. Or you may receive a call from a cybercriminal pretending to represent your financial institution as a ruse to obtain personal information or account details.

Identity thieves may send text or instant messages, emails, or freeware infected with malicious software that captures keystrokes to steal your usernames and passwords. Data breaches, sales of stolen customer information, and “dumpster-diving” to recover records that have not been properly shredded also provide avenues for access.

Know the Signs

Monitor your accounts regularly to quickly identify problems and notify financial institutions. Signs of a problem can include:

  • Unfamiliar or unauthorized transactions, money movement, or deposits
  • Missing funds or securities
  • Incorrect or unauthorized account updates, including change of address, email or phone number
  • Notification of unrequested account changes
  • Missing account statements
  • Unfamiliar accounts or creditors on your credit report

Safeguard Your Accounts

To protect yourself and deter cybercriminals, take the following steps to secure your financial accounts.

  • Watch What You Click. Instead of clicking on or responding to links or attachments, go to your financial firm’s website or app to confirm they sent the information.
  • Use Strong Passwords. Do not share or reuse passwords, and change them regularly. Consider tracking and protecting them by using a password manager—an app that suggests and saves individual, strong passwords for each account.
  • Enable Multi-factor Authentication (MFA). MFA uses two or more different types of authentication factors—such as a password and a code sent separately, or a physical identifier such as a fingerprint, voice or facial recognition.
  • Maintain Computer Security. Use security software with anti-virus, anti-spam, and spyware detection features, and install security updates on all devices upon notification.
  • Use Your Own Device. Avoid accessing financial accounts through public computers or devices that are not yours. If you do use another computer, delete your “Temporary Internet Files,” or “Cache,” and clear your “History” after logging out of accounts.
  • Use Wi-Fi Safely. Many public hotspots, such as wireless networks in airports, hotels, and restaurants, reduce their security settings. Some hackers even create public networks with familiar-sounding names to lure in unsuspecting internet-seekers. Red flags include slow connections or lack of terms of service agreements. Whenever possible, only access trusted, encrypted networks, and secure your personal network with the strongest available encryption and password.
  • Review Your Correspondence. Review account activity and monthly statements thoroughly as soon as they are available, and report mistakes or unauthorized activity. Be sure your contact information is current and that you regularly receive statements.

If you think your personal information has been stolen or your account has been compromised, immediately notify your financial institutions. Change your username and password for the breached account and others using the same login information. Consider placing a fraud alert on your file with each credit bureau.

To report or find additional resources about identify theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov website.

FINRA is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to investor protection and market integrity. Under the oversight of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, FINRA regulates one critical part of the securities industry—brokerage firms doing business with the public in the U.S. For further information on protecting your money or to file a tip or complaint, visit www.FINRA.org/MoneyShow.