With so much of our daily lives involving online activity, passwords are the key to access most of our personal information. How secure do you keep your passwords and what steps do you take to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of phishing, fraud or scams? SDCCU has some great online safety tips to help you create a strong password, and protect your personal information and financial data.

Create a Strong Password:
When creating a password, try not to choose one that can be directly linked to your personal information, like your birthdate, address, dog’s name, favorite items or anything that is easily guessed. This will ensure that only you know the password, making it difficult for a criminal to guess. The longer the password, the harder it will be to crack. Experts suggest you use a minimum of 8 characters or more and passphrases with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. For example, if you use the phrase “I love dogs,” you could create your password to look like this: I*L0v3*d*0g$. Another good rule of thumb is to remember to never repeat your passwords across multiple accounts. It is a good practice to add multifactor password authentication to your accounts to provide extra security. This process will send a code via text, email, or a phone call to enter when logging into your accounts as an additional security step. Some providers will even display the location of a device that has attempted to log into your account, which means you will know right away if a hacker is trying to gain access. Revisit your current passwords and implement these tips to help secure your accounts and stay safe online.

Be Aware of These Phishing Scams:
Scam attempts are hard to avoid as they can take place in-person, over the phone, via text message, email or snail mail. One of the most recent and popular online scams is phishing. Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to persuade individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. If you receive this type of unrequested correspondence in any form and the sender asks for your personal information such as logins, passwords, social security number or bank info, do not provide, open or respond to the request. Be aware and diligent about opening emails, always check the address for extra letters or misspellings. Do not open suspicious links, texts, pop-up windows or attachments in emails, particularly if they are unsolicited. Emails and text messages are a popular method for scammers and are the fastest way to get into your personal devices. Phishers will typically request information like: password verifications, social security, bank info, login info, confirmation of account profile like your address, date of birth and more. Always trust your instinct and call the official and secured company phone number to speak with a representative to inform them of the request and ask if the correspondence sent to you has been verified as a legitimate request.

At times these scammers and phishers will pretend to be from a reputable company that you may or may not have accounts established with and request this type of information to mislead, hack, and steal your information. There are also great security software tools that you can add to your devices, as well as password managers that can keep your information protected and secure.

Other Common Scams to Look Out For:
In addition to phishing, other common scams can include social media scams, money mule scams and charity scams. Social media scams often involve a scammer sending you a personal message to let you know that you’ve won a prize. They will then ask for your personal information to claim a fake reward. Money mule scammers may ask you to send them money via gift cards or wire transfer with the promise of a reward at the end, but this is a tactic for scammers to launder money. Charity scammers will often call you and ask for donations to a fake foundation, so always verify they are a legitimate organization. Another great thing to remember when it comes to scams is that government agencies such as the Social Security Administration (SSI) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not call, text or email you asking for money, ever.

If you think that you may have given out or compromised your password, change it right away and notify the relevant company and/or government agency. Be sure your antivirus software is current. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, it’s very likely that it’s not. Keep your eyes open to scam techniques and share these tips with others. If you suspect you have been targeted by a phishing scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at reportfraud.ftc.gov.

These basic tips will help guide you when creating your next password or updating your current ones. It is important to share this information with family and friends and spread the word to keep everyone protected. For more information and resources on how to help fight fraud, visit SDCCU’s webpage at sdccu.com/scams

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