• 73°

MONEY MATTERS: Cyber skills to help keep you safe


We all know how important it is to keep our finances cyber secure. We continually hear about fraudulent activity. Malicious actors, account takeovers, malware, ransomware – unfortunately, these are terms we all know too well. Here I will lay out a few critical reminders in keeping yourself cyber-safe.

Preventing Identity Theft

  • Never respond to unsolicited requests for personal information by phone, email or online. This includes your name, birthdate, Social Security number or bank account number.
  • Secure your Social Security number. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write it on your checks. Only give it out when absolutely necessary. Don’t feel bad about refusing to give it out; very few people need this information.
  • Review your credit report once a year to be sure it doesn’t include accounts you have not opened. You can order one free per year at annualcreditreport.com
  • Enable security features on mobile devices, especially if you have contacts, banking apps and websites saved.
  • Never use public Wi-Fi.

Online Safety Tips

  • Strong passwords: A long password is a strong password. Using a mixture of numbers, letters (upper and lower case) and symbols is beneficial. Never share your passwords with anyone. Passwords are the gateway into essential parts of your life, so take care of them.
  • Mobile devices: Hackers love to target our devices. Practice the same proactive security as you would on your desktop.
  • Vishing: Vishing, or voice phishing, is phone fraud that uses social engineering to gain access to private personal and financial information. Vishing often involves a criminal pretending, over the phone, to represent a trusted institution, company or government agency.

Fake News

  • The internet is a great thing, but it also is a blank canvas for anyone to put out any information they desire, whether it’s accurate or not. Reasons for the fake news include to influence opinion, manipulate financial markets, attack a business or competitor and to trick people into clicking links.
  • What can you do to avoid falling victim? For one, if reputable news sources are not reporting on the story, then it’s likely fake. Be sure only to visit sites you trust to verify accuracy. Watch for bad grammar; this always warrants caution!

One of the easiest ways to stay safe from this barrage of attacks is to listen to your gut. If someone asks for information, and you want to hesitate, do! Do your own research and verify the source. If something makes you feel “panic,” stop and don’t go any further. Panic is one of fraudsters’ most-used tactics. They want you to react before you have time to think.

Lastly, always think before you click – on anything! Clicking a malicious link or download opens your personal cyber windows and doors to all sorts of fraudulent activity.

Emily Mays is vice president/senior marketing director at Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, working in finance for 14 years. She is an enthusiastic social media marketer, financial literacy advocate and go local supporter. She lives in East Franklin and has one daughter, Lola.