October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Now in its 18th year, the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) continue to raise awareness about the importance of cybersecurity in the United States.
A great way to begin your cybersecurity journey is by practicing measures to protect against identity and credit card theft. Here’s what you need to know to reduce chances you’ll be a target, and how you can take quick action to minimize damage.
Protect Your Credit Like A Pro
Secure your credit file by freezing your account at all three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. This is the best way to ensure that your credit is protected — it acts as your virtual credit file switch.
Once you freeze your credit file, no one can open a new credit card account — not even you. If you want to open a new credit card account or receive a bank loan, you have to lift the freeze by providing a PIN. Once you are done, refreeze your file using that same PIN.
Safeguard Your Social Security Number
Your Social Security number is the master key to unlocking your personal data. Because of this, you should guard it the best you can. If asked for your SSN, inquire why it is needed and how it will be protected.
Use Strong Passwords and Add an Authentication Step
Use a password manager to manage and store complex, unique passwords for your accounts. Do not reuse passwords. This means completely disregarding that one-size-fits-all password you’ve been using for decades.
Add an authentication step when available, such as with Google. This adds an additional layer to logging into an account, usually by sending a code to your smartphone, backup email or via automated phone call.
Sign Up for Instant Text or Email Alerts
If you’re worried your credit card or bank information may have landed in the wrong hands, sign up for text or email notifications with your credit card company and bank. By doing this, you’ll receive a notification anytime a transaction is made on your accounts. It’s the best way to monitor possible identity theft.
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