Last week, the Federal Trade Commission hosted online seminars in honor of Consumer Protection Week. This week, we mark the 15th of March as World Consumer Rights Day, remembering the address President John F. Kennedy gave on this day in 1962 where he formally addressed consumer rights. Every year, a different subject under the branch of consumer protection is addressed. This year, the theme is Fair Digital Finance.
Over the past few years, consumers have been subjected to scams, fraud and phishing when using online financial services. This year’s theme is meant to address some of the greatest problems that faced consumers in 2021.
Here are just a few things that you can do to protect yourself when managing any sort of finances online.
- Be cautious about opening attachments or clicking on links in emails. Even a friend or a family member’s account could be hacked. Files and links can contain malware that can weaken a computer’s security.
- Change your passwords often and make them difficult to guess. Never include personal information in them, such as birth dates, phone numbers, social security numbers or addresses.
- Do your own typing. If a company or organization you know sends you a link or phone number, do not click on it. Use a favorite search engine to look up the website or phone number yourself. Even though a link or a phone number in an email may look authentic, scammers can hide the true destination.
- Make the call if you aren’t sure. Do not respond to any emails that request personal or financial information. Phishers use pressure tactics and prey on fear. If you think that a company, friend, or family member really does need your personal information for any reason at all, pick up the phone and call them yourself, using the number on their website or in your address book – not the one in the email.
- Turn on two-factor authentication. For accounts that support it, two-factor authentication requires both your password and some other additional piece of information to log into your account. The second piece could be a code sent to your phone or a random number generated by an app or a token. This protects your account even if your passwords are compromised.
- As an extra precaution, you may want to choose more than one type of second authentication (like a PIN) in case your primary method is unavailable.
- Back up your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage and do it regularly to protect yourself against viruses or a ransomware attack.
- Report phishing emails and texts. Forward phishing emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and to the organization impersonated in the email. The report is most effective when the full email subject line is included, but most email programs hide this information. To ensure the subject line is included, search the name of your email service with “full email header” into your favorite search engine.
- Keep your security up to date. Use security software you trust, and make sure to update your devices regularly. If an identity thief is opening a credit account in your name, these new accounts are likely to show up on your credit report. Visit identitytheft.gov for more information.
You can also visit consumersinternational.org to see a list of forums and events that will be held this week to give consumers tips on how to protect themselves. For more helpful tips about safely working with finances online, visit our blog page and check out our social media channels to stay up-to-date on all new posts.