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By Rick Boeth, CISSP, CISM - October 23, 2017
Recent security breaches in the news, such as the Equifax hack, emphasize the growing importance of cyber security and protecting your personal information (Social Security number, account numbers, etc.). As security incidents occur more frequently and cast a wider net, the greater the chance that a breach will affect you. Because we care about your security and work hard to protect it, we're sharing ways you can help protect yourself.
Safeguarding your identity starts with being aware of the potential dangers and the best practices to avoid them. For this reason, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance has designated October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month .
Data breaches give criminals puzzle pieces of personal information that, when assembled, allow them to masquerade as you and commit fraud. They may use the information to open new accounts or gain access to existing ones. The more pieces of information fraudsters can gather about you, off or online, the easier it is to gain unauthorized access.
Another way criminals obtain information and access is social engineering. With this tactic, they manipulate victims by exploiting your trust. For example, a person who knows your bank name and home address may attempt to use those details to trick you into providing your account number. Online, this may come in the form of a phishing email, which look like it comes from a trusted source, but it's actually someone trying to gain access to your passwords or computer.
Delete suspicious emails and don't click the links. Warning signs include emails that request you verify information and act immediately. They often contain unusual Web addresses or poor grammar or spelling. Clicking the links may expose your device to viruses or malware. Remember not to click the links or reply to the email. If you have questions, look up the company's website and log in directly.
Use social media privacy settings to limit access. Social sites can be a great way to connect with others, but it's important to remember what they can see. If your account is open for anyone to see, crooks may be able to use your profile to answer security questions such as your mother's maiden name or what school you went to.
Don't provide personally identifiable information to someone who calls you. It could be one of many scams where the caller is impersonating an organization's representative. Again, when in doubt, hang up, look up the company's number and call them directly.
Check that the websites' address starts with either https:// or shttp:// or displays the closed padlock icon, which indicate a secure connection. If it only says http:// the connection is not secure. Also, be sure to limit the use of public Wi-Fi hotspots for purchases or banking. Don't forget to adjust the security settings on your device so you don't automatically connect to WiFi.
Don't use the same password for every site. If a hacker learns your password from one site, it could be used to access your financial accounts. Create stronger password for more sensitive accounts, such as banking or financial sites. This is why we've set stringent requirements for clients creating a password on americancentury.com.
Use two-step verification on financial sites or email accounts, if offered. We also recommend you use a password management tool, such as LastPass , Dashlane , 1Password , or Norton Identity Safe , that creates stronger passwords without requiring you to remember them all.
Review your credit report at least once a year for yourself and for your minor children. You can request your free report from the Federal Trade Commission . If you don't plan on requesting a line of credit soon—say for purchasing a home or car—you can also ask for a credit freeze to limit your risk.
Log into financial accounts regularly to check balances and keep an eye on your account activity. You should also verify your contact and bank information to make sure they're accurate for checks or transfers. It's also important to shred important or confidential documents you no longer need, and keep the ones you do need in a locked cabinet, safe or safety deposit box.
Consider a prevention and recovery service provider, such as LifeLock or Zander Identity Theft Solutions , to give you greater control of your identity protection and online security.
Your security is critical part of the trust you place in us. We're committed to protecting your personal information no matter how you choose to do business with us.
Read Part 2 of the Cyber Security Series: How We're Keeping Your Data Safe.
Get more tips on how to safeguard your account and identity.
The opinions expressed are those of American Century Investments (or the portfolio manager) and are no guarantee of the future performance of any American Century Investments' portfolio. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.