Money Matters: Increase cyber awareness to protect your finances

FRANKLIN LIVING MAY-JUNE 2023

A recent statistic shows phishing and spoofing scams are up 400 percent. Cyber threats of all kinds have evolved and increased exponentially. They are happening more frequently and with greater sophistication than ever before. 

We live in a world where we are constantly consuming information, so it’s no wonder malicious actors have ramped up their game.

In our digital age, scams will increase even more. Unending online shopping and the onslaught of junk emails pouring into our inboxes set the end-user up for possible cyber-attacks.

You are your best defense when it comes to staying safe. Staying cautious and taking a defensive stance before you click on anything can make all the difference in your online protection. Keep the following best practices in mind as you navigate the “internet of things.” 

1. Password Management: Most people have at least four websites with the same password. I know we are all in password overload, but make sure you never use the same password for other sites that you use for your banking information. If your password is cracked, the more sites you used it on, the more opportunities for criminals to access your information. 

2. Links Equal Risk: Cybercriminals are more innovative than ever at creating emails or texts that prompt you to click a link. A common scam is a text message or email telling you there was a problem with a shipment and to click the link to learn more or track your package. Always go back to your order confirmation that you received after placing your order and track your package there or directly from the website at which you ordered. Also, links for holiday deals, one-day specials or tremendous savings are so tempting; if you want to check out a deal, do the search from scratch yourself – never by clicking the link. 

3. Trust Your Gut: If something seems suspicious or not quite right, do not click on it. Think of the text message or voicemails that say, “Your Social Security number has been compromised; call immediately to get the issue resolved.” You can’t help but panic when you receive a message like that – but if it sends you into a panic to respond, the scam is working. Check things out from sources you trust. Look up the phone number or web address yourself. It is also totally fine to hang up on someone you don’t trust – even if they say it’s your bank. Hang up and call a number you know and trust and verify the information. Better to be rude than taken advantage of. The financial ramifications can last an extensive period if someone gains access to your accounts. 

4. You Are Always A Target: Most Importantly, know that you are always a target. We all are. The mindset of “it won’t happen to me” is a thing of the past. Cybercriminals don’t care who you are – everyone is a potential victim. 

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Emily Mays is vice president/chief administrative officer at Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, working in finance for 15 years. She is an enthusiastic social media marketer, financial literacy advocate and go-local supporter.

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