These days, it seems like it’s all about computers.
Last week, a representative from Northwest Bank’s security department contacted Era readers with information on how to protect themselves in an online world where dangers are often invisible.
Lance Spencer, chief information security officer at Northwest Bank, explained that people should protect their identities like they do at home.
“There are a number of things people can do,” Spencer said. “What I always find interesting is that people in general go out of their way to protect their belongings. They lock their car, they lock their house. They are careful who they let in.
Yet when they go online, they tend to post all kinds of personal information, like when they’re away from home on vacation and if they have pets, and sometimes even their phone numbers.
“There are a number of things that could be done,” Spencer said. “There are social media privacy and security settings that can be set.”
Without using parameters, it is possible to expose a lot of information.
He advised, “Take a look at those security settings, adjust them, and pay attention to what’s posted.”
What harm could be done with his phone number and email address?
Spencer explained, “Cybercriminals take advantage of this email address and phone number to spoof,” which disguises their calls or emails with your number or address. He added that the criminals spoofed numbers, so the calls appeared to come from the bank. “It really throws customers into a loop,” he said. “They may get a call or text from a number that’s North West, they think they’re talking to the bank, for example.”
It usually takes some time before victims realize they have been scammed.
“We talk about the sophistication of tactics,” Spencer said. “It’s like tricking someone into giving up their personal information. It’s just that bad actors find other ways to fool people.
Often the criminal will pretend to be someone else to get a victim to provide passwords so they don’t have to go through the extra steps to steal them.
So is online banking really worth it? Absolutely, Spencer said.
“It’s really about knowing those red flags. A lot of the older generation may not be as tech-savvy, or as familiar with it as to what to look for,” he said. “There’s usually a confident nature.”
Be careful and be aware, Spencer said.
Northwest has a new take on online banking, he said, and the staff are there to help.
There are security features with online banking no matter where one of the banks is, including security alerts and multi-factor authentication when logging in.
Spencer offered tips to make her online banking safer.
“Do not share the same username and password for multiple accounts. Don’t use the same ones on social media,” he said.
If when logging into an account, one needs to obtain a transaction code to authenticate the user, never give it to anyone. The bank won’t ask for it.
“And with email, be very careful when clicking on links or opening websites.”
If someone is a victim of identity theft, contact the financial institution immediately. “It’s the best way we can help you,” Spencer said.
“There are always ways to file identity theft complaints with the Federal Trade Commission,” he added, “call 1-877-ID-THEFT. Contact the major credit bureaus and report the fraud in case transactions fall against you.
“If it comes down to actual fraud, monetary loss, contact the police,” he said.
With passwords, Spencer said, you can write them down, but keep them somewhere safe. And don’t write down what system it is for, just write “bank” with the bank’s password. This way, if the information fell into the wrong hands, it would be difficult for the person to determine which bank the information accessed.
He advised caution on apps that act as password keepers, as some may be designed by bad actors, trying to defraud customers.
“The main point is to start treating your identity as an asset like anything tangible that you’re trying to protect,” he said. “
There is something else. We used to say trust but verify. The paradigm has changed by the time you check, it’s usually too late. The malicious event has already happened, things happen in a split second.
Spencer added: “Now we say ‘Never trust and always verify. If readers keep this in mind, they will be better off in the long run.