Phishing, Smishing and Skimmers: How to protect yourself from cyber fraud

These days, life has never been easier. There’s an app for just about everything—household groceries are a mere click away, restaurant meals are delivered with real-time updates, and checks can be deposited with only a picture. You pay your bills online, download airline boarding passes to your phone and opt into monthly streaming services that provide limitless entertainment. It’s all part of a frictionless, on-demand economy where consumers expect ease and convenience. 

But this modern way of life comes at a price. Consumers are more vulnerable now than ever to cyber threats that could compromise their financial security. Fraud, identity theft, and other scams have become commonplace, so it’s important to take steps to minimize your exposure, says Bank of St. Francisville IT Officer Austin Daniel.

“There are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself from cyber threats,” Austin says. “It’s just a matter of investing a little extra time and developing a few new habits.” 

Choose your passwords carefully, and don’t share them. Most people default to easy-to-remember passwords, like pets’ or children’s names, or important dates, but it’s vital to create hard-to-guess passwords that thieves can’t guess, Austin says. Use different passwords for each account and keep them private. If you detect fraudulent activity through an account, change your password immediately.

Don’t grant a stranger remote access to your computer. Website pages or phone calls that scare you into thinking there is a virus or issue with your computer are attempts to extort repair money from you for issues that probably don’t exist. If you feel your computer does have an issue, or you have already allowed access into your computer, turn it off and find a trusted professional to repair and clean the device before you use it again, Austin advises.

Avoid clicking links through a third party that lead to an e-commerce site. Email and social media platforms frequently advertise links to sites where you might consider shopping. Rather than clicking on those links, which could be compromised by third parties wanting to swipe your login information, it’s safer to type the site address directly into your search browser. 

Check your accounts often. The advantage of online banking is that you can check your account often to ensure all the transactions you see are legitimate. If you see something that looks suspicious, report it immediately and change your password. 

When using public WiFi networks, avoid online banking or shopping. Open-access WiFi environments, such as libraries or airports, are less secure than your password-protected server at home and should never be used when you log into personal accounts. This is because a hacker can intervene between you and the actual connection point. “Criminals can set up fake networks that sound legitimate, but are not,” Austin says. “If you click on a fake network accidentally, you risk exposing your sensitive information.” 

Expect financial professionals to use secure Cloud file-sharing. Modern protocols in industries like banking, financial planning, and accounting require your advisor to send you information through secure Cloud file-sharing services, such as ShareFile, rather than through email, which is not secure at all. Be sure your financial professional is keeping sensitive financial information safe by using a verified secure service to send and receive important details such as social security numbers.

Don’t fall prey to “smishing” by clicking on text message links. You may have seen an uptick lately in strange text messages that seem like they’re from a bank or credit card company, but are actually a ploy called “smishing.” This is a form of phishing in which a hacker tries to get you to reveal sensitive information by asking you to click on a link in a text message. Do not click on them. These links will then prompt you to reveal social security numbers or account information. 

Beware of “skimmers.” Skimmers are malicious card readers that cyber criminals attach to regular card readers at gas pump payment terminals and ATM machines. Next time you prepare to insert you credit card, take a close look at the card reader. If it seems like there’s an extra attachment that doesn’t look quite right, it could be a skimmer. When in doubt, go inside to pay for your gas, or find another ATM machine.

To learn more about safe online banking at Bank of St. Francisville, click here. For more information on mobile banking, click here or download the BSF mobile app, available for Apple and Android devices. 

Further Reading