There are many things you can do to safeguard your personal information online. Commit all passwords to memory. Never write them down (not even on a post-it by your computer!) or carry them with you. Make sure passwords are long and include upper- and lower-case letters and numbers. Don’t include any words that can be found in a dictionary or names and dates that can be associated with you (your children’s names or birthdates, for example). The best practice is to have a different password for each account. If you find it too hard to keep track of so many different passwords, have separate, longer, harder-to-guess passwords for your financial accounts.
Don’t give out your financial or personal information over the Internet, unless you have initiated the contact or know for certain with whom you are dealing. Never share identity information online unless the site is secure with an encryption program, so no one can intercept your information. If secure, the website address will start with https, not http. There will also be a lock symbol near the web address. A secure website is not necessarily a legitimate one. Don’t let your guard down just because you see the “https” and lock symbol.
Don’t use public WiFi when sending financial or personal information. And if you’re using a public computer, like at your local library, never give the browser permission to save your password, always log off any website you signed into, and close the browser before you leave the computer.
Passcode protect your phone and tablet. Many people use apps on their mobile devices that save their passwords and log them in automatically, giving thieves easier access to personal information. Using a passcode helps ensure that someone else can’t get into sensitive information stored on your device.
Don’t reply to emails asking for personal banking information, even if they have a company logo! Financial institutions will never ask for personal information via email.
This is an excerpt from Your Money, Your Goals toolkit, a toolkit created by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).
If you are looking for financial advice, Michael Hall is a financial counselor with Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation. As a financial counselor he helps individuals allocate their funds better, deal with debt, weigh in on legal options, and even save for a rainy day. If you’re in debt or have no credit and need help, a reputable credit counseling organization, like the Office of Financial Empowerment through NYC Office of Consumer Affairs might be able to help. To schedule a financial counseling appointment, go to: www.nyc.gov/talkmoney or call 718-636-6900 and ask for Michael Hall.