Don’t trade security for convenience
The internet is full of great resources to make life more convenient, but just like in the physical world, it’s important to be careful with your valuables online — and keep in mind that in the digital world, information is the most valuable thing of all.
Scammers, hackers, and other criminals are skilled at stealing sensitive data from unsuspecting victims, such as their passwords, Social Security numbers, and financial account numbers. That’s why it’s important to know how to secure your devices, network, and personal information.
Use caution with mobile payment apps
Smartphone payment apps have become increasingly popular in recent years, allowing fast and easy money transfers between people for things like shared restaurant meals, group gifts, and even garage sale purchases from neighbors. But along with greater convenience comes new potential for fraud, so follow these guidelines to keep your payments as secure as possible.
- Set up mobile payment apps to require a passcode, PIN, facial recognition, or fingerprint before making a payment.
- Carefully double-check the recipient before submitting a payment. If you send it to the wrong person, you might not be able to get it back.
- Before sending money to a friend or family member for the first time, ask them to send you a payment request through the app, or send them a small test payment first to make sure you have the correct account.
- When receiving payment from someone you don’t know, wait until the payment has been deposited with your financial institution before providing goods or services.
Protect your personal accounts and devices
Leaving your personal accounts and electronic devices unsecured is a little bit like leaving your front door unlocked — except in this case, criminals can break in over the internet from just about anywhere. Even if no one else normally has access to your accounts and devices, it’s important to use password protection in case they are lost, stolen, or hacked.
- Secure your accounts and devices with strong passwords. (See below for tips on creating strong passwords.)
- Be extra careful with accounts that contain personal information, such as social media, email, mobile payment apps, and bank or credit union accounts.
- Do not send account numbers, passwords, payment details, or other personal information by email or text message.
- Do not use public Wi-Fi for online purchases or financial transactions.
Strengthen your passwords and security questions
Setting your accounts and electronic devices to require a password is an important part of keeping them secure — especially if they happen to get stolen. But that protection is only as strong as the passwords themselves, so make sure yours are up to the task.
- Do not use the same password for multiple accounts. That way, even if hackers break into one of your accounts, they won’t be able to get into the others.
- Use a minimum of 12 characters for each password. One of the best ways to strengthen a password is to make it longer.
- Avoid passwords that are common or easily guessed, such as a child’s birthday, the word “password,” or your spouse’s name.
- Choose security questions that cannot be easily guessed (such as a color or year) or obtained from publicly available information (such as your birthplace or mother’s maiden name).
- Treat your passwords and security questions the same way you would treat your wallet, cash, or credit cards — keep them protected and do not save them to your device.
Stay up to date to stay safe
Visit our website for additional security tips, and check back often for regular updates. If you suspect you’ve been a victim of identity theft, report it right away at IdentityTheft.gov.
The information provided here is general in nature and may not apply to your specific situation.