By: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. It’s a good time to think about protecting your personal information while you’re online. Being online lets you follow the news, connect with friends and family, shop, manage finances, and more. Getting online may help reduce social isolation and increase independence for older adults – especially during the pandemic – but as we spend more time online, it’s important to stay safe.
Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim
To protect yourself and your loved ones, here are 10 tips for internet safety:
- Lock your devices just like you lock your front door. Use a passcode or fingerprint to lock your phone or tablet. If you have a computer, use a strong password that’s at least 12 characters long.
- Lock down your login. Fortify your online accounts by enabling the strongest authentication tools available, such as biometrics, security keys or a unique one-time code through an app on your mobile device. Your usernames and passphrases are not enough to protect key accounts like email, banking and social media.
- Know the red flags of online scams. If someone contacts you and asks you to pay by wire transfer or gift card, don’t do it. It’s a scam.
- Think before you act. Be wary of communications that implores you to act immediately, offers something that sounds too good to be true or asks for personal information.
- When in doubt, throw it out. Links in email, tweets, posts and online advertising are often how cybercriminals try to compromise your information. If it looks suspicious, even if you know the source, it’s best to delete or – if appropriate – mark it as junk.
- Don’t reveal personal or financial information in an email, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information.
- Pay attention to the website’s URL. Malicious websites may look identical to a legitimate site, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com versus .net).
- If you are unsure whether an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly. Contact the company using information provided on an account statement, not information provided in an email.
- Keep a clean machine. Keep all software on internet-connected devices – including PCs, smartphones and tablets – up to date to reduce risk of infection from malware.
- Share with care. Limit how much personal information you share online. Set your social media profiles to private. If someone asks to connect with you on social media, only accept their request if you know them.
What to do if You are a Victim
- Alert the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators, about any suspicious or unusual activity.
- If you believe your financial accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close the account(s).
- Watch for any unauthorized charges to your account.
- Report the attack to your local police department, and file a report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the Internet Crime Complaint Center.