Protecting Your Data in the Real and Digital World
January 9, 2023
From social media platforms to same-day shopping services, living in the digital age certainly has its connected conveniences. But with so much personal information floating around the cloud, you may be more susceptible to scammers without even knowing it.
Criminals are becoming ever more sophisticated in their efforts to gather sensitive personal information such as Social Security Numbers, passwords, and account details. To stay vigilant and keep yourself and your data safe, here are seven ways to avoid digital scams and fraud.
7 Tips to Protect Your Data
1. Keep passwords secure
The average person juggles up to 80 passwords1 between social media platforms, utility accounts, emails, work documents, and more. With one million passwords stolen every week2, we should protect these digital keys at all costs. Follow these tips to keep your online passwords secure:
- Never use the same username and password for multiple websites. If one set of log-in details becomes compromised, then you could be exposed in multiple different places
- Never write your passwords down on paper or leave them on sticky notes on your computer. Keep them in a secure place only you can access
- Use a combination of letters and numbers. Longer and more complex passwords or phrases (15 to 20 characters in length) are more challenging to crack than shorter, simple combinations
- Use a password manager. Memorizing dozens of complex passwords isn’t easy, so use a password manager to store your passwords safely and conveniently
- Opt for multi-factor authentication when available. By adding an additional layer of security, you can keep your profiles, accounts, and documents safe even if your password is hacked
2. Browse and share information safely
If you enjoy browsing your favorite websites at the local coffee shop, then do so with caution. Free and public Wi-Fi networks put you at risk for malware, session hijacking, network snooping, and log-in credential vulnerabilities.
You can still sip and shop in public if you use a VPN (virtual private network) service. A VPN provides an encrypted server, hides your IP address, and keeps your data private even when using a public or shared network.
Add an additional layer of security by only sending or viewing documents via a file-sharing service like Dropbox.com. Time-limited links also help keep prying eyes away from sensitive information.
If you must use a public Wi-Fi network, avoid sending personal information via email or online forms, and avoid online banking. Save any sharing or purchasing for when you’re on a safe and secure network.
3. Avoid phishing hooks
Phishing is a type of scam often used in attempts to steal user data like login credentials, credit card numbers, or personal information. Hackers “fish” by baiting unsuspecting people through fraudulent emails, texts, phone calls, or websites, often disguised as a trusted entity, like a friend, government agency, or utility company.
These scams are continuously evolving, as are the clever and convincing tactics used to fool consumers. But there are a few ways to protect yourself, including:
- Making sure security software is active and updated on all devices
- Recognizing common signs of a phishing attack, like poor spelling and grammar, mismatched or unsecure URL or email addresses, or unfamiliar and impersonal greetings
- Double-checking by contacting vendors and individuals directly, to confirm any suspicious messages or requests before responding
4. Skip the mailbox
USPS claims that as many as 1.7 million pieces of mail are stolen daily3. Would-be thieves often target locked central neighborhood mailboxes or simply steal directly from personal mailboxes to gather personal financial information like checks or applications.
You should avoid leaving mail in a mailbox overnight. Consider dropping off mail at the post office when it contains personal financial information.
5. Get shredding
Most people know how important it is to shred sensitive papers like tax-related documents and credit card statements. But nearly every piece of mail holds just enough information to attract a scammer.
Besides the more-obvious documents, experts recommend shredding junk mail, expired IDs, old bank statements, boarding passes, and canceled checks. Be cautious when getting rid of boxes if they have shipping labels with your information. Even if something seems like garbage (e.g., a sticky note with seemingly innocent information), it’s often worth the extra time to shred it for peace of mind.
Invest in a paper shredder, reach out to a local shredding service, or hold all your documents somewhere safe until a community shredding day pops up on the calendar. If all else fails, a sharp pair of scissors works too.
6. Use secure messaging services
SMS, or Short Message Service, is the most common form of text messaging used today. It’s also surprisingly unsecure and can leave your messages open to various kinds of attacks.
Instead of sending texts containing personal or financial information via SMS, use an end-to-end encryption messaging service like Telegram or Signal, or better yet, avoid sending that information digitally entirely, unless through a secure portal like your bank’s website.
7. Research before you buy
In 2021, US consumers lost $770 million in social media scams4. This was 18 times higher than in 2017 and included the cost of online shopping scams. Whether shopping on an online marketplace or through a sponsored ad, you should consider the source and do your due diligence before handing over your credit card details.
- Check to see if the website or social media page has a refund or returns policy
- Research the retailer, look for reviews to check for legitimacy and validity
- Only pay using a secure payment service (the URL will start with “HTTPS” and feature a closed padlock symbol) or a payment provider like Venmo or PayPal
And remember, if the price seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
It Can Happen to Anyone
In the United States, one out of every 10 adults falls victim to a scam each year5. Scams are increasing in frequency and intensity6, but taking these steps to protect yourself and your data can help you avoid becoming a victim.
At Trinity Wealth Management we prioritize the security of your personal and financial information. If you have any questions about the steps we take to keep your information safe, please reach out to us.
The commentary on this website reflects the personal opinions, viewpoints, and analyses of the Trinity Wealth Management, LLC employees providing such comments, and should not be regarded as a description of advisory services provided by Trinity Wealth Management, LLC or performance returns of any Trinity Wealth Management, LLC Investments client. The views reflected in the commentary are subject to change at any time without notice. Nothing on this website constitutes investment advice, performance data, or any recommendation that any particular security, portfolio of securities, transaction, or investment strategy is suitable for any specific person. Any mention of a particular security and related performance data is not a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Trinity Wealth Management, LLC manages its clients’ accounts using a variety of investment techniques and strategies, which are not necessarily discussed in the commentary. Investments in securities involve the risk of loss. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
1 Secureframe, “70 Password Statistics To Inspire Better Security Practices.” 2 Secplicity, “2021 World Password Day: How many will be stolen this year?” 3 PosScanMail, “Why You Need a Secure Mailbox: Mail Theft Stats & Facts 2022” 4 FTC.gov, “FTC Finds Huge Surge in Consumer Reports about Losing Money to Scams Initiated Through Social Media. Federal Trade Commission” 5 Legaljobs, “41 Need-to-Know Statistics to Keep You Safe in 2022” 6 FTC.gov, “New Data Shows FTC Received 2.8 Million Fraud Reports From Consumers in 2021”