With the proliferation of the web and an increased reliance on technology, more and more people fall victims to identity theft and online fraud. To protect yourself from identity theft, it’s important to know how to keep your information secure. Not only is cyber fraud continuing to grow, but it is becoming more sophisticated and is constantly changing. We’re here to help keep you on the forefront of this issue so you can protect your identity and mitigate potential security risks.
Here are six ways you can help prevent identity theft as an investor, according to Fidelity Investments*:
1. Manage your devices
Install the most up-to-date antivirus and antispyware programs on all devices (PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones) and update these software programs as they become available. These programs are most effective when users set them to run regularly rather than just running periodic scans, which may not provide maximum protection to your device. Access sensitive data only through a secure location or device; never access confidential personal data via a public computer, such as in a library, hotel or cybercafé. If you have children, set up a separate computer they can use for games and other online activities.
2. Protect all passwords
Use a personalized custom identifier for financial accounts you access online. Never use your Social Security number in any part of your login activity. Regularly reset your passwords, including those for your email accounts. Avoid using common passwords across a range of financial relationships. Avoid storing passwords in email folders. Consider using a password manager program.
3. Surf the web safely
Do not connect to the Internet via unsecured or unknown wireless networks, such as those in public locations like libraries, hotels or cybercafés. These networks may lack virus protection, are highly susceptible to attacks, and should never be used to access confidential personal data.
4. Protect information on social networks
Limit the amount of personal information you post on social networking sites. Never post your Social Security number (even the last four digits). Consider keeping your birthdate, home address, and home phone number confidential. Perhaps don’t post about your vacation until after you’ve returned home. We also discourage clients from posting announcements about births, children’s birthdays, or loss of loved ones. Sharing too much information can make you susceptible to fraudsters and allow them to quickly pass a variety of tests related to the authentication of your personal information. Never underestimate the public sources that individuals will use to learn critical facts about people.
5. Keep a close eye on your email accounts
Delete any emails that include detailed financial information beyond the time that it’s needed. In addition, continuously assess whether you even need to store any personal and financial information in an email account. Use secure data storage programs to archive critical data and documents. Review unsolicited emails carefully. Never click links in unsolicited emails or in pop-up ads, especially those that warn that your computer is infected with a virus and request that you take immediate action. Establish separate email accounts for personal correspondence and financial transactions.
6. Safeguard your financial accounts
Review all your credit card and financial statements as soon as they arrive or become available online. If any transaction looks suspicious, immediately contact the financial institution where the account is held. Never send account information or personally identifiable information over email, chat, or any other unsecured channel. Suspiciously review any unsolicited email requesting personal information. Further, never respond to an information request by clicking a link in an email. Instead, type the Web site’s URL into the browser yourself. Avoid developing any online patterns of money movement, such as wires, that cybercriminals could replicate to make money movement patterns appear more legitimate.
Be scrupulous when it comes to protecting your identity and your finances online. Use antivirus software on any internet-connected device you own. Don’t access confidential or sensitive personal information on a public device. Reset your account passwords regularly, and always keep them unique and difficult to guess. Be mindful of anything you share on social media – can be used by identity thieves in any way? Don’t click on anything in suspicious-looking emails. Finally, protect your financial account data: review transactions frequently and don’t send account information via any unsecured channel.
Even with safeguards in place, identity thieves can still outsmart the smartest of us. If you have fallen victim to identity theft, use our identity theft checklist to learn what to do next.
*Source: Fidelity Investments, 2016
The information contained herein is as of the date of its publication unless otherwise noted, is subject to change, and is general in nature. Such information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal, tax, or compliance advice. Fidelity does not provide legal, tax, or compliance advice. Fidelity cannot guarantee that such information is accurate, complete, or timely. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. Laws of a specific state or laws that may be applicable to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. This information is not individualized; is not intended to serve as the primary or sole basis for your decisions, as there may be other factors you should consider; and may not be inclusive of everything that a firm should consider in this type of planning decision. Some of the concepts may not be applicable to all firms. Always consult an attorney, tax professional, or compliance advisor regarding your specific legal or tax situation.