Consumers increasingly rely on digital devices such as computers and smartphones to access financial accounts and other sensitive financial information. While this often makes things easy and convenient, accessing this information online also comes with risks.
The FDIC identifies the most common cybersecurity crimes as identity theft, fraud and scams. Below are some tips from the FDIC to help you avoid scams and keep your private financial information safe.
Identity theft is a crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data to open fraudulent credit card accounts, charge existing credit card accounts, withdraw funds from deposit accounts, or obtain new loans. Here are some tips to avoid identity theft:
- Do not share personal information over the phone, through the mail, or over the internet unless you initiated the contact or know the person you are dealing with.
- Be suspicious if someone contacts you unexpectedly online and asks for your personal information. It doesn’t matter how legitimate the email or website may look. Only open emails from people or organizations you know and, even then, be cautious if they look questionable. Be especially wary of fraudulent emails or websites that have typos or other obvious mistakes.
- Don’t give out personal information in response to unsolicited requests. Be particularly careful about to whom you give your Social Security number, financial account information, and driver’s license number.
- Choose PINs and passwords that would be difficult to guess and avoid using easily identifiable information, such as your mother’s maiden name, birth dates, the last four digits of your social security number, or phone numbers.
- Be careful about where and how you conduct financial transactions. For example, don’t use an unsecured Wi-Fi network because someone might be able to access the information you are transmitting or viewing
Fraud and Scams
Every year millions of people are victims of frauds and scams, which often start with an email, text message, or phone message that appears to be from a legitimate, trusted organization. These messages typically ask consumers to verify or update personal information or they direct consumers to bogus websites (such as for credit repair services) in the hopes that consumers will visit the site and enter their personal information. Here are some tips to avoid frauds and scams:
- Be aware of incoming email or text messages that ask you to click on a link because the link may install malware that allows thieves to spy on your computer and gain access to your information.
- Be suspicious of any email or phone requests to update or verify your personal information because a legitimate organization would not solicit updates in an unsecured manner for information it already has.
- Confirm a message is legitimate by contacting the sender (it is best to look up the sender’s contact information yourself instead of using contact information in the message).
- Be on guard against fraudulent checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, or electronic fund transfers sent to you with requests for you to wire back part of the money.
- Be wary of any offers that pressure you to send funds quickly by wire transfer or involve another party who insists on secrecy.
For more tips on cybersecurity and other financial resources, visit the FDIC’s Consumer Resource Center.