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How Hackable Are You?

SAFE Cents Video

If you’ve never been the victim of identity theft, consider yourself lucky. You just can't rely on luck to save you, though. Improve your odds by changing some bad Internet decisions that you and 300 million other Americans make every day.

Join SAFE Cents host Mark, as he meets his evil twin who has stolen his identity. You’ll learn some of the best ways to keep hackers from hacking you.

Online Security: a Video Summary

Do your online passwords contain personal information, like your pet’s name or your birth year? If so, your whole identity could be stolen within the hour.

As you can see, identity theft is a problem.

A lot of it comes down to the strength of your online passwords. Sure, everyone knows you need at least 8 characters, but let’s look at the reason why.

On average, it takes a cyber hacker about one hour to crack an eight-character password comprised of upper- and lower-case letters and numbers. But for an 11-digit password with a symbol thrown in could take 400 years.

But passwords like that are hard to remember, and you should never re-use a password.

Because if you do, a hacker will guess the password that you keep reusing and they will get all of your stuff.

But the average internet user has over 200 digital accounts that require passwords. 

The best way to defend yourself is to use a password manager that creates and stores random and hard-to-hack passwords for you.

Some password manager apps are free. The better ones, you pay for — but nowhere near what you’ll pay if someone steals your identity. 

Be sure to visit our Learning Center to find more educational materials from SAFE Federal Credit Union.

Outsmart the Hackers

The internet can be a vast land of endless opportunity – both for you and for cyber criminals. Unfortunately, these hackers are constantly finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities and use private information for their own gain. Identity theft and cyber-attacks can occur through countless schemes: hacking, phishing, skimming, and the list goes on.

There is a 22% chance that you could be a victim of identity theft in your lifetime. Here are some of the best ways to be prepared and stay protected from hackers.

Protect Your Accounts

For internet accounts, your username and password is like the front door to the secure information within. Unlike physical locks and keys which are random and unique, digital usernames and passwords tend to hold meaning for the account holder. (Because let’s face it, you can hardly memorize a password with your favorite ice cream flavor, let alone a string of random characters.)

However, hackers are counting on these easy-to-guess phrases to gain access to your information. Here’s how you can stop them in their tracks.

Maximize Your Passwords

A twelve-character password can be over 13 million times harder to break than an eight-character password. Adding capitalization, symbols, and numbers can create a far more unique combination to serve as a natural form of hacker protection.  

Know Your Vulnerabilities

Your email password is especially critical to maintaining online security because of the ability to reset other passwords through this account. Don’t put your email at risk with a weak password, or a criminal could gain access to many other accounts with ease.

Guessable security questions are another way hackers can gain a foothold into your account. Make sure your answers can’t be deduced through public records or social media.

Use All the Help You Can Get

Password managers offer an extra level of security and a peace of mind that can be invaluable for digital security. Take advantage of the password generators, and make sure your login for the password manager is equally secure.

Beware of Phishing

Some scammers don’t even bother with playing the guessing game. Instead, phishing schemes are ploys to get your information straight from you. These scams can occur over text, phone, or email, with many sophisticated techniques to trap recipients. Here are some common features of phishing scams:

  • They pose as a credible entity  
    • If you get an email out of the blue from a company you recognize, but the email looks suspicious, it’s probably a phishing attempt.
  • Content that urges you to click right away  
    • These scams try to scare you into action with time-sensitive threats or frightening consequences.
  • Fake links and downloads
    • Never click on a link from a suspicious email. If it appears to be from someone you know, find a different way to contact them and ask if the message is real.

If you don’t realize their ploy, phishing scams can cause you to follow malicious links, resulting in:

  • Stealing or selling your personal information
  • Installing malware on your device
  • Infiltrating your company’s network

Be Safe in Public

Public utilities such as Wi-Fi, stores, and ATMs offer even more opportunities for online hackers to steal your data through wireless technology. Luckily for you, we have suggestions to help you stay on your guard wherever you are.

Public Wi-Fi  

When you browse the internet in a public place, you are using a network that anyone else can access and monitor as they please. However, the data you send and receive in public can stay protected as long as each site you visit is encrypted (seen by the lock icon next to your search bar). With this feature in place, your information should be impenetrable to those around you.

Private Wi-Fi

While you may assume that your private Wi-Fi is secure, there are ways that hackers can infiltrate. Make sure the network is always protected with a strong password so that no one within range can join and access your data.

Another way hackers can tap into your private Wi-Fi is through malware or viruses. To fight against this, keep your devices up to date with the latest security features and never install untrusted apps or visit suspicious links.

Card Skimming  

When making purchases in public, it’s easy to forget that criminals could be seeking opportunities to steal your information. To guard against credit card fraud, always examine the card reader before you swipe your card.

Bank With Confidence

When it comes to credit theft protection and online security, there’s still an inherent risk that comes with doing business online. That’s when better banking habits can help save the day. Learn more about what identity theft is, how to monitor against it, and how to choose the best banking services for your needs.

What is Identity Theft?

Your personal information is valuable. From usernames and passwords to your unique social security number, criminals are constantly looking for ways to steal this data and use it for their own gain. This can result in stolen funds, damaged credit, breach of privacy, and emotional suffering.

  • If criminals gain access to your personal information, they can
    • Make purchases on your credit cards
    • Open new accounts in your name (financial, phone, or utility accounts)  
    • Get money from your tax refund
    • Steal your health insurance
    • Assume your identity in an arrest
  • Ways you can monitor against identity theft
    • Track your bills for address changes and unauthorized charges
    • Check your bank statements
    • Review your credit report annually
    • Ask about monitoring services like fraud alerts

Minimize Risk With Credit Cards

When it comes to secure banking, some services may offer more protection against fraud and identity theft.  

Credit cards come with automatic safety features that can help protect you against the costs of identity theft. Due to the Fair Credit Billing Act of 1974, all credit companies are required to investigate fraud before you are required to pay for unauthorized charges. Now, many popular credit companies offer $0 fraud liability, meaning you don’t have to pay a dime if your card is stolen.

Stay Informed

You don’t have to go out of your way to monitor your accounts when you bank with SAFE. With Visa Purchase Alerts, you can receive customizable text message alerts for routine or suspicious activity with details like purchase amount, merchant name, and location of the transaction.