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By Jonathan Trimble, FCS Financial Chief Security Officer

In today's digital age, online security is a personal imperative for everyone. Cyber criminals target everyone, frequently leading to identity theft and financial loss. Identity theft can take years to rectify, and financial loss often can be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Help prevent this from happening to you by following these three essential ways to protect yourself while conducting financial transactions online.

Create Strong and Unique Passwords

Creating strong and unique passwords is crucial for safeguarding your online accounts. An important aspect of creating strong and unique passwords is to avoid using personal information or common words that can easily be associated with you. Hackers often use personal information such as your name, birthdate, or address to guess passwords. Be creative and come up with unique combinations that are not easily guessable.

Avoid using common passwords that contain items such as '123456' or 'password' as they are easily guessable. Instead, create a “passphrase” that is at least 15 characters long and includes a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. By making a password longer, hackers can no longer crack your password in hours – it would take them years. The passphrase should be easily memorized, such as <kS>##<ChIeFs>$@$LVII

Additionally, it's important to use a different password for each of your online accounts to minimize the risk of multiple accounts being compromised if one password is exposed. Cyber Criminals use automated tools to check if a compromised password works elsewhere for the same user.

Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Enabling multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of security to your online accounts. It requires you to provide two or more pieces of evidence to verify your identity. This could be something you know (such as a password), something you have (such as a mobile device or key fob), or something you are (such as a fingerprint or facial recognition). By enabling multi-factor authentication, even if someone manages to obtain your password, they would still need the additional authentication factor to access your account.

Most financial institutions offer multi-factor authentication options, such as sending a verification code to your registered mobile number or using biometric authentication methods. It is highly recommended to enable this feature for all your financial accounts to enhance the security of your online transactions.

Regularly Monitor Your Accounts for Suspicious Activity

Regularly monitoring your accounts for suspicious activity is essential to detect any unauthorized access or fraudulent transactions. Keep a close eye on your account statements, transaction history, and any notifications or alerts sent by your financial institution. If you notice any unfamiliar transactions, discrepancies, or suspicious activities, report them immediately.

In addition to monitoring your accounts, it is also important to review your credit reports regularly. This can help you identify any unauthorized accounts or credit inquiries that may indicate identity theft. You can obtain free copies of your credit report from the major credit bureaus once a year.

An additional level of security to prevent identify theft is to enable a credit security freeze with the credit reporting agencies, which limits access to your credit reports without your express permission. Having a freeze on your credit report will not affect your credit scores, but it may prevent your credit report from being accessed until you unfreeze your credit report or credit file.

By staying vigilant and actively monitoring your accounts, you can quickly respond to any potential security breaches and take necessary actions to protect your financial information.

Jonathan Trimble is the FCS Financial Chief Security Officer. He brings an extensive background in physical and cyber security, investigations, and project management to FCS Financial.  He has experience in the military and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

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