Whether you log on to a website, make an online payment, send an email, use a social network or even send a text, you're adding to your online identity. In today’s world, having your information out there is almost unavoidable. Unfortunately, fraudsters and cybercriminals often take advantage of this reality by finding new and unique ways to access and steal that information. The good news, however, is that there are steps you can take to help protect your identity.
Look for a secure connection. When logging on to a website, look at the address bar on the browser. If you see a padlock icon on the left-hand side of the address, the site is secure because it is using encryption and verification, which ensures you are safely sharing your data. Clicking on the padlock will show you the site’s security certificate. If you do not see the padlock icon, you may want to avoid entering any personal information on that particular site because whatever data you enter will be vulnerable. When shopping online, visit only legitimate websites and use safe online payment options and digital wallets for a more secure checkout.
Be wary of suspicious calls, emails or texts. Never give out information unless you are certain where it is going and how it will be used. Do not open suspicious attachments. If you suspect a piece of communication is malicious, call the sender or company directly instead of replying to the email or clicking on a potentially malicious link or attachment.
Protect personal data. Never throw away or give an unwanted device to someone else without factory resetting it and wiping all data from the device. Bad actors can use your personal data in a variety of ways that can cause great harm. Identify theft is when a person or entity uses your information including your name, contact information, financial accounts, Social Security Number and other personal information without permission. They can use this information to change your billing address, steal government benefits, open a bank account, apply for loans or lines of credit, use your money to make purchases online or even commit crimes.
Use Wi-Fi wisely. When using Wi-Fi in a public space, other individuals who are connected to the same network may be able to access the information on your device. To avoid such an issue, follow these safe use guidelines when using a public Wi-Fi connection:
- Turn off auto-connect features on your phone or laptop to control which networks you connect to
- Use a VPN to encrypt your data whenever possible
- Don’t access personal or financial information
- Don’t shop online
- Don’t stay permanently signed into accounts
- Pay attention to warnings
- Don’t leave your device unattended in a public place
Choose strong passwords. It is important to choose strong passwords for your online accounts and home network. Create a strong password by combining upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. Using a phrase known only to you can help you remember a lengthy password. Do not use the same password or form of password on multiple accounts. Also, you should consider updating them every few months. Keeping your devices up to date with the latest operating systems and security patches will help support password strength. If you fill out security questions as a step in resetting a password, make sure they are challenging questions for which only you know the answer. Password manager applications can also help you ensure that your passwords are strong, unique and updated regularly.
Use multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication requires multiple factors to verify a user’s identity, combining things only you know, like a password or PIN, with things like a special code sent to your smartphone, a fingerprint or facial recognition technology. This can prevent unwanted users from accessing your personal accounts.
Though cybercriminals are serious about their business and constantly finding new ways to access others’ personal data, you can reduce your odds that you will become one of their victims by maintaining your security awareness.
If you have reason to believe that you’ve been the victim of identity theft, visit IRS.gov/identitytheft or identitytheft.gov to learn what steps you should take. You can also check Busey's Money Matters blog and our Fraud Prevention FAQs for additional information on security-related topics.
If you notice unauthorized activity on your account(s) that was not performed by you or an authorized user, visit a local Service Center, reach out to your Relationship Manager or contact Busey’s Customer Care team immediately.