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How to Keep Your Online Accounts Safe

Huge data breaches of personal information from large companies are all over the news lately – Target, Home Depot, Sony, and Anthem. The fact is: identity thieves don’t limit their targets to large companies. If you do not take steps to protect your personal and financial information when you go online, you could be the next victim of identity theft. Here are some relatively easy tips on how to safeguard your information when you go online.

Have Strong Passwords

The best passwords are difficult to guess. Many identity thieves use computer programs to crack passwords. A lengthy combination of random letters, numbers, punctuation and special characters – not recognizable words – is best. There are several software programs available that can be used to generate strong passwords such as Norton Identity Safe Password Generator and Last Pass. Passwords should be changed regularly; you should use a different password for every account; and you should not share your password with others. Never use your e-mail password for any other account. One of the easiest ways identity thieves access your personal information is through your e-mail account. If a fraudster gains access to your e-mail account and you use that same password for your financial accounts, you’ve got trouble.

Use a Security Token if Possible

Some brokerage firms offer its customers the option of using a security token. A security token is a small device that generates a one-time pass-code that changes every 30 or 60 seconds. Identity thieves using keystroke logging programs to obtain regular password information cannot use them to obtain security token passcodes.

Protect Your Computer

Computer security software packages that include anti-virus, anti-span, and spyware detection features are a must have. There are many inexpensive options available. Make sure you select the automatic update feature of the software so your computer is protected with the latest security patches. Even if you have security software, you should periodically scan your computer for malware. One free option is an anti-malware scanning program available from Malwarebytes.

Do Not Use Public Wi-Fi to Access Your Financial Accounts

Wireless networks may not be as secure as wired Internet connections. Many sites offering public Wi-Fi – airports, hotels, and restaurants – have minimal security to make it easier for individuals to access and use their wireless networks. This means that identity thieves will have an easier time snooping and stealing any information you share over the Wi-Fi.

Always Log Out of Financial Accounts Completely

Closing your financial account window may not be enough to keep others from gaining access to your account information. Always “log out” and do not allow your computer to remember your user name and password information.

Think Before You Click

Do not respond to e-mails requesting personal information. Do not click on website links you receive in unsolicited and unexpected e-mails. If you are unsure if the e-mail is legitimate, pick up the phone and call your financial institution. Even though a web address in an email may look legitimate, fraudsters can mask the link’s true destination. Many times a small spelling mistake (.con instead of .com) or transposed letters (.oal instead of .aol) can indicate that the link is a fake.

For more information on safeguarding your financial information, visit:

FINRA Investor Alert – Protect Your Online Brokerage Account: Safety Should Come First When Logging In and Out

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