October has been designated as National Cyber Security Awareness Month for more than a decade. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the National Cyber Security Alliance designed it to help Americans stay safer online. This year, with the theme of “Our Shared Responsibility”, the National Cyber Security Alliance is emphasizing that everyone has a part in online security. Here are a few of the ways you can help safeguard your personal information.
Don’t Let Your Password Be the Weak Link
Yahoo account users are changing their passwords in response to a security breach that compromised millions of accounts in September. Even if your email account was not affected, it’s wise to strengthen your passwords as email access can give criminals the keys to your other accounts. Take note of these considerations for all of your online accounts.
- Avoid using the same password across your online accounts. Why? If a hacker steals your data and password from your favorite retailer, he or she might be able to use the same details to tap into your bank.
- Use a risk-based approach by creating stronger passwords for sites that could result in the most harm if hacked—generally, those are going to be financial sites or your email account. Stronger passwords should include a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers and special symbols.
- Take advantage of two-step verification on your financial sites and your email accounts, if offered.
- Consider using a management tool with a password generator, such as LastPass, DashLane or 1Password. Password management tools create stronger passwords without requiring you to remember them all.
Check In to Keep Thieves Out
Identity theft involves the criminal use of your personal data for someone else’s gain. Thieves could use your information in scenarios ranging from credit card fraud to filing a tax return under your name in order to steal your refund. Help protect your identity by taking measures online and offline.
- Review your credit report annually to spot mistakes and avoid potential fraud. You can request your free report from the Federal Trade Commission. Remember to do the same for your kids. Children are ideal targets because they have clean credit histories and parents rarely check their credit reports.
- Log into financial accounts regularly to check balances and keep an eye on your account activity. Additionally, verify your contact information to make sure you receive statements and account-related documents. If you have a bank tied to your investment accounts, make sure it’s accurate for any transfers you make.
- Keep important documents in a locked file cabinet, safe or safety deposit box. Shred what you no longer need.
- Never give personally identifiable information—such as your Social Security number, birth date or account number—over the phone when someone calls you. The caller might actually be impersonating an organization’s representative, as was the case with recent IRS phone scams targeting thousands of taxpayers. It’s better to look up the organization’s number and call them directly.
How American Century Keeps Clients Safe
We value the trust investors place in us and are committed to protecting their privacy, no matter how they choose to business with us—online, by phone or in person. To provide them peace of mind while online, we offer a Security Guarantee to protect against unauthorized account activity. If any client suffers a loss due to unauthorized activity through no fault of their own, we will reimburse their American Century account.
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.