5 Ways to Protect Your Financial Info from Hackers

Information breaches that would have been difficult to fathom years ago are now common. And people are rightfully worried. After all, if the federal government can get hacked and its employees’ data stolen, how vulnerable is a personal account held at a bank or brokerage?

So what actions can you take to protect yourself in what feels like an endless battle to keep your data secure? Here are five steps to consider:

 1. Diversify your passwords – and change them.

For the user’s convenience they often use the same password across multiple websites, which is a big mistake. It’s like giving an intruder a key that opens every lock. You want to make it extremely difficult for a hacker to access your sensitive information. Create unique password combinations (including letters, numbers and symbols) for each of the financial websites you log into, and establish a bi-annual schedule to change them.

2. Use an online password manager.

All of those hard to crack passwords can be a nightmare to remember and store, so utilize a reputable password manager. The best managers include password generators that create strong and unique choices. Most password managers allow you to sync your passwords across all electronic devices, making it easy to maintain multiple passwords.

3. Make life hard for crooks.

Shredding confidential documents, avoiding simple passwords, and keeping sensitive information off of unsecured channels are all effective actions. Thoroughly checking credit card statements for suspicious activity, and being aware of your surroundings when using ATMs, are security measures that remain effective. Don’t let your guard down. Learn more about preventing fraud at the ATM here.

4. Check your credit reports at least annually.

Periodically checking your credit report is a smart way to stay ahead of the bad guys, but many people don’t because of common misconceptions like the belief that you have to pay a fee to see your report, or that you must subscribe to a service.

The goal is to check for discrepancies, inconsistences and inaccuracies that might suggest identity theft. Annualcreditreport.com is a great (free) place to start.

5. Keep your guard up when it comes to emails.

Be wary of any email that requires you to click on a hyperlink to update a password or confirm confidential material. These emails are often “phishing” attempts seeking to scam you. They appear to come from familiar places such as your bank, an online retailer, or even the IRS. But – they are not legitimate, so be very careful before you open them!

It’s understandable to feel helpless in an age of smart criminals who conduct endless assaults on privacy. But simply putting the threat out of mind is not a solution, or thinking it can’t happen to you. Think first because there’s harm in not knowing!

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Richard Rosso for nerdwallet.com

Are You Smart About Smartphone Financial Security?

All of us are creatures of convenience, and that extends to our finances. It’s not enough to access online banking, budgeting tools, and retailer websites from home — we want them on our mobile devices, too. But, just as browsing the web from home can expose our finances to ever-evolving cyber threats, using mobile apps can too. Though personal devices may seem more secure than a public computer, hackers can still find ways to get into our phones and steal sensitive financial information.

Are you smart about smartphone financial security? If not, following these tips is a good place to start.

1. Use Those Optional Security Measures Like Touch ID

Are you someone who’s been stubborn about setting up a passcode or Touch ID to open your phone? It’s a little less convenient, but the extra step is also the first line of defense for your personal information.

2. Add Extra Security Measures to Financial Apps

Besides your smartphone’s overall security, it’s important to protect access to financial information on your phone housed in banking account apps, account linked financial management apps, and digital wallets. Setting up additional features like passcodes (or Touch ID) for each financial app provides another line of defense if your phone is lost or hacked. As with all personal accounts, choose unique passwords, update them regularly, and keep them in a secure location (a.k.a., not in your phone!).

Some smartphones also allow you to at least partially block Internet access and ad tracking mechanisms on a per-app basis to protect your information from outside threats.

3. Know Your Smartphone’s Vulnerabilities

Whenever there’s a major data breach, tech companies inform the public of who could have been affected where, when, and how. There’s similar information available on which smartphone operating systems, browsers, and other tools have been (or could be) vulnerable to various types of cyber threats and attacks. You don’t have to be super tech-savvy to search for your phone’s systems and look at the risk scale and number of vulnerabilities. You can also check out consumer-focused technology blogs and news sites.

4. If You’re in the Market for a New Smartphone, Consider Security Features

The older your phone is, the less security features it’s likely to have and the more vulnerable it is to hackers. If you’re already due for a new smartphone, make security a priority. Some features will be standard, but smartphone security differs widely based on model and operating system (OS). Check for reviews and explanation of security features, and choose the level of security that best fits the way you use your smartphone.

A simple (and free) thing you can do in between upgrades is to promptly install any system updates. Some of them are just for new features or speed, but others could be correcting security vulnerabilities.

If at any time you feel any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised due to a smartphone or online vulnerability, contact our Member Relationship Center right away at 732.312.1500. If your First Financial credit or debit cards were compromised in a scam, call the 24/7 toll-free number on the back of your card to report the incident and replace your card. All important phone numbers for members can be found on our website: https://www.firstffcu.com/contact-us.htm

Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

Lost Cell Phone? Here’s How to Keep Your Finances Safe

We depend on our cell phone for so many day-to-day tasks that go beyond communication. We keep track of our appointments, monitor our healthy lifestyle, and stay updated on breaking news. Additionally, our cell phones have become a hub for managing our finances.

The Federal Reserve reports that Americans use their smart phones or other mobile devices for a variety of monetary activities.

    • 51% of smartphone users had used mobile banking.
    • 24% of smartphone users had made a mobile payment.
    • 38% of mobile phone users had deposited a check using their phone.

Financial apps have made it faster and easier than ever to access your money on the go, and view all your financial information right from the palm of your hand.  But, what dangers could arise if you are one of the 5.2 million people who, in a year’s time, lose their smart phone or have their smart phones stolen? How can you protect your finances in the event that your cell phone ever goes missing?

Before your phone is ever compromised, take these precautions to prevent strangers from accessing your phone or the programs and apps it holds.

Passcode Protection: 62% of smartphone owners don’t have a passcode set to protect their phone. You should always set your phone or mobile device to lock when it’s not in use, and set a secure passcode or password for access to your phone. Some smartphones now let you take security even further and utilize your thumbprint or facial recognition to unlock your phone.

Activate Find My Phone: The Find My Phone feature on your smartphone allows you to quickly trace your phone’s location if it ends up missing. Your operating systems may also offer a lost mode. With this feature, you can send a message to your home screen asking anyone who finds your phone to call to you at a specified number.

If your smartphone is lost, quick action can be the difference between saving your financial information or months of headache if your accounts are accessed by a stranger. Take these actions as soon as you realize your phone is gone.

Contact Your Financial Institution: Let your financial institution, credit card companies, and lenders know your phone or device is missing and someone may have access to your account information. They can flag your account as “compromised,” freeze your accounts, or monitor suspicious activity.

Change Your Passwords: Use your desktop computer or another mobile device to reset the passwords for your online banking or payment tools. Also reset your email password. This way if someone uses the “Forgot My Password” feature on any financial app or website, they cannot access your email and reset your passwords themselves.

A Final Tip: Always log out of financial websites or apps before you close out of them. Keeping yourself logged in or enabling auto sign-in means that your information is easily accessible, even if you’re not the one holding your device.

If you feel that any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised as a result of a lost or stolen cell phone, please contact Member Services at 732-312-1500 Monday through Friday 8am-6pm EST, or Saturday 8:30am-1pm.

Article Source: Kara Vincent for CUInsight.com

Top 10 Ways to Prevent Cyber Crime at Work and Home

Cyberattacks are unfortunately a common occurrence and on the increase. In fact, an average of 200,000 new malware samples are discovered daily, presenting an ominous threat to consumers at work and at home.  The following is a list of the top 10 cyber security tips.

1. Don’t click on emailed links. Instead, type the website URL directly into the web browser’s address bar, or search for the site using a search engine like Google.

2. Avoid opening any attachments you were not expecting. However, if you must – scan the attachment first for viruses.

3. Keep computers patched and up to date. This includes operating systems like Windows and iOS, and applications such as Adobe and Java. Keep antivirus software up to date on all devices, including phones.

4. Clean your desktop and your desk. Lock your screen whenever you leave your workstation or office. When you leave work for the day, lock all paperwork in your file cabinets. Everyone has a smartphone camera today, you always want to be cautious with sensitive documents and information.

5. Double check your work. Breaches can easily occur due to simple miscommunication. For example, someone within a company thinks another person has changed the password – and vice versa.

6. Shred it. This goes for any paperwork you are no longer using at work and at home.

7. Use different passwords for different sites. For personal use, consider using a password tool that allows you to set different passwords for each site you frequent, while only requiring you to remember one strong password.

8. Beware of phishing scams. Unlike common spam, a phishing email is after personal data and will likely have a sense of urgency, asking you to click here, act right away – the offer is time limited. Delete any emails that don’t sound right to you.

9. Avoid oversharing. The most common consumer threat today is social engineering in unexpected places like Facebook. Don’t answer questions on where you went to school, whether you have ever done something, or what your nickname is. This information can be used to break into your accounts.

10. Consider turning Siri off, and Amazon Echo, Alexa, and all the new devices that are listening and recording. You need to have a healthy suspicion of where this data is going. It might not be going where you think it is.

Ultimately, we should all strive to be good net neighbors, protecting our own identity at work and at home. This means taking care of ourselves so we don’t get infected and harm others. The threat is real, but following the right security protocols can dramatically reduce our risks.

Article Source: Colette L’Heureux-Stevens for Co-Op Financial Services

Traveling with Your Credit Card: Safety Precautions to Consider

It’s summer, which means that many of us are packing up our bags and heading for the hills (or the beach, or the museums). The last thing you want to worry about is your credit card.

Unfortunately, all too many of us face hassles with credit card security while traveling — especially during trips abroad. These problems can range from the annoying to the devastating, but most of them are very preventable. Here’s how to have a worry-free vacation.

Pre-departure Preparations

You wouldn’t leave home without booking your flight or packing your bag, and credit card security is just as important. Make sure to add a few credit card specific tasks to your pre-departure list.

  • Call your card issuer to notify them of your travel plans.

Many credit card issuers have built-in fraud protection that could shut down your card if it’s used outside of your normal purchase pattern. The last thing you want is to have your card denied at that fabulous Italian bistro, so give your card issuer a heads up.

  • Do some research regarding foreign transaction fees.

If you carry multiple credit cards, you should know that there might be a wide variation between your cards when it comes to foreign transaction fees. Call your card issuers or do some digging online to compare fees.

  • Learn how to contact your credit card issuer while abroad.

Toll-free numbers don’t typically work abroad, so you’ll need a different way to contact your credit card issuer if you encounter problems during your travels. Some cards have international numbers printed right on the back. If yours doesn’t, call them up before you leave and ask them what number to use. Write down this number and keep it with your travel documents.

  • Make copies of the front and back of your credit cards.

This is one step that’s frequently overlooked, but if your cards are stolen, having photocopies can be very helpful. Many travelers also do this for passports.

  • Make sure your card will be accepted abroad.

Not all cards are taken around the world. Consider getting an EMV chip card (if yours doesn’t already have this feature), which is more widely accepted abroad – especially in Europe.

EMV Chip Cards

EMV security chip cards are fairly new to the U.S. market, but they have become the go-to standard in other countries. These cards feature embedded microchips that can hold a large volume of dynamic data. They also require entry of a pin in order to complete a transaction, and that means that a thief who simply has your card number can’t use your card.

If you bring an American swipe card abroad, expect it to be rejected at several common locations, including:

  • Gas stations
  • Parking meters
  • Many merchants and retailers
  • Destinations in Europe other than major cities

Handling Your Credit Card While Abroad

So you’ve taken all the precautions before boarding the plane: what about when you’ve reached your destination? There are several steps you can take to avoid fraud, theft, and unnecessary trouble abroad.

  • Avoid use of your credit card in less-than-secure situations.

The street vendor may have a lovely smile and even better food for sale, but this probably isn’t the best place to pull out your credit card.

  • Have your travel companion carry a different card as a back-up.

Even if you plan on relying primarily on one card, it’s not a bad idea to have a back-up along — and to have it carried by someone else. That way, if your wallet or money carrier is lost or stolen, you aren’t completely out of luck.

  • Keep your credit card in sight.

Try to hand your credit card directly to the person who will be processing the transaction. You’ll want to avoid situations where someone takes your card out of sight to process a transaction, because that scenario makes it easy for them to steal your information.

  • Be cautious with ATMs.

ATM fees can be extremely steep for international transactions. In addition, many foreign ATMs (especially outside of western Europe) are not as secure as we may expect from our U.S. counterparts. If you are traveling abroad and you must use an ATM, choose one that is attached to a legitimate business (preferably a bank).

  • Carry cash or travelers checks as back-up.

Try to carry enough local currency or traveler’s checks to get by each day (but not so much that you’re a ripe target for muggers). Credit cards are convenient, but if yours is declined or stolen and you don’t have an alternative method of payment available, you won’t think it’s very convenient. Look into getting a discreet carrying pouch specifically designed for passports and money, which is much more secure than a wallet or purse.

  • Document everything.

Keep receipts of all purchases in case mysterious charges are added to your account later. Keeping receipts also helps with expense tracking, so you can stay on budget.

The Bottom Line

This list may have left you a little uneasy. Don’t worry — you’ve already taken the first step by informing yourself. Credit cards are usually part of the solution — not the problem, when you’re traveling abroad. All you have to do is take proper precautions and exercise a bit of due diligence. Just think about how much more relaxing that well-deserved vacation will be, knowing that you don’t have to spend a moment worrying about your credit cards.

Bon Voyage!

Article Source: Ellen Gans for thesimpledollar.com

A Credit Freeze Won’t Help With All Equifax Breach Threats

If you’ve placed a security freeze on your credit reports at Equifax, Experian, TransUnion, and Innovis, that will help prevent fraudsters from opening new credit accounts in your name.

Freezing your credit report specifically at Equifax will also prevent crooks from registering as you at the government website “my Social Security,” and block them from attempting to steal your Social Security benefits. *Note: Setting up a credit freeze with Equifax will stop identity thieves from setting up a “my Social Security” account in your name.

But taking these steps won’t protect you against every identity fraud threat arising from the Equifax data breach.

With the information that hackers got, including access to Social Security numbers, birth dates, and an unspecified amount of driver’s license numbers, you need to take other steps to help lock down your finances.

Here are three important ways you can protect yourself.

Tax Refunds

With your Social Security number, crooks can file false income tax returns in your name, take bogus deductions, and steal the resulting refund. Though you are generally not liable for such fraud, if a criminal manages to change your tax records and receive your refund, it can take months to straighten out the mess.

How to protect yourself. The best defense is to obtain an Identity Protection PIN from the IRS, which is a code that must be filed with your legitimate return for it to be accepted. An identity thief can’t file the fraudulent return without your PIN.

But you can get a PIN only if a fraudulent return has previously been filed in your name, if the IRS determines that you’re an ID fraud victim, or if you live in a high tax-related identity theft locale such as Washington, D.C.; Florida; or Georgia.

The IRS did not yet say whether those affected by the Equifax breach would qualify for a PIN.

Andrew Mattson, a tax partner at the Moss Adams tax firm in Silicon Valley, recommends that taxpayers who don’t officially qualify for a PIN request one anyway, by filing a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit (PDF). “Even if the IRS says no, your account will generally be flagged for additional monitoring for suspicious activity,” he says.

Mattson also recommends that you periodically view your IRS account information, which shows when returns were filed and which refund payments were made. Activity there—if it’s not yours—can be a sign of fraud. The balance updates every 24 hours, usually overnight, but there is a one- to three-week lag in the time it takes for refund payments to show up.

If you suspect fraud, contact your local IRS office using the Taxpayer Assistance Center Office Locator.

Health Insurance

Data from the Equifax breach can be used to steal your benefits from private health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid when the identity thief uses your coverage to pay for their own medical treatment and prescriptions.

Many health insurers have internal special investigation units and anti‐fraud personnel to root out medical identity fraud, and if suspicious activity is detected, they’ll send email alerts to the policyholder, says Cathryn Donaldson, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the trade association of health insurers.

How to protect yourself. Get copies of your medical records from providers to establish the baseline of your health before your records are compromised. Increasingly, online patient portals make this easy to do. Check back regularly to see whether providers you didn’t use are listed and whether you’ve been charged for treatments you never received.

In addition, review your free annual MIB Consumer File, which contains medical and personal information about you reported by health, life, disability, and other member insurers. Do the same for your Milliman Intelliscript report, which tracks your history of prescription drug purchases.

The Federal Trade Commission also says consumers should ask each of their health plans and medical providers for the “accounting of disclosures” related to their medical records. That tells who got copies of your records from the provider. The law allows you to order one free copy from each medical provider every year.

If available, sign up for your insurer’s secure online portal, and regularly review the explanation of benefits, which shows which treatments you received when and from which providers. While there, sign up for fraud alerts via email or text message, which will keep you apprised of benefit payments.

Regularly review your credit report for medical collection accounts that don’t belong to you.

Your Driver’s License

Using your driver’s license number, identity thieves can create bogus driver’s licenses and hang their moving violations on you. With more work and information from phishing or further hacking, identity thieves can create bogus checks to pay a cashier, who “verifies” the shopper’s identity by writing your license number on the bad check.

If this happens to you, you may not discover how your license has been used until a police officer tells you, or perhaps, until a bank closes your account because of too many bounced checks.

How to protect yourself. Ask the motor vehicle department to give you a copy of your driving record; most states charge for this, usually about $10. To find out whether any bad checks are attributed to your driver’s license, request your free annual consumer report from each of the big three check verification companies: ChexSystems, Certegy, and TeleCheck.

If you find that your driver’s license is being used fraudulently, you can file a police report at your local police department and ask the motor vehicle department to flag your license number, which will alert law enforcement officers to be extra careful in identifying people they pull over with your license number. You should also request a new driver’s license number.

If you’re arrested or find criminal charges on your record, go to the Identity Theft Resource Center for advice on clearing criminal identity theft; if you find fraudulent checks on your record, follow the ITRC for advice on resolving checking account fraud. You can also call 888-400-5530 for free assistance.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from SherpaThe best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today! 

Article Source: Jeff Blyskal for Consumer Reports