With Christmas and 2024 fast approaching, scammers and other cyber criminals are on the look-out for ways to break into your bank accounts and steal your money. You should remain vigilant at all times and never take chances when it comes to the security of your finances. Here are some tips to protect your data and ultimately your money this Christmas season:
Check Daily To Keep Your Money Secure
It is important to be vigilant about monitoring your financial accounts and transactions on a regular basis. Cyber criminals and scammers are always looking for ways to steal people’s personal and banking information. One of the best defences is to carefully review all of your account activity. Check your statements at least once per day and look for any suspicious or unauthorized transactions.
When examining your transactions, pay close attention to things that you do not recognize. Perhaps it is a purchase from a company you have never heard of, or a withdrawal from an ATM across town when you have not travelled. Don’t ignore any unknown transactions. Contact your bank or financial institution immediately to report potentially fraudulent activity. Acting quickly is key, as the sooner issues are caught, the more likely it is your money can be recovered or further losses prevented.
In today’s digital world, it is so easy to receive messages or come across links online that you can put your personal information at risk if you are not careful. Cyber criminals have become very skilled at creating communications that appear legitimate at first glance in order to steal identities and banking credentials.
Take a few moments to carefully review the URL or website address before clicking. Make sure it is one you recognize and trust. If there is any doubt in your mind, it is best not to risk clicking until you can verify the source directly with the supposed sender through a separate contact method. Hackers have become adept at creating convincing yet fraudulent emails or texts to trick people.
Never provide sensitive details like account numbers, passwords, social security numbers, or financial information online unless you have initiated the interaction yourself on a website you know is secure. You can tell if a site is secure if the web address begins with “https://” rather than just “http://”. The “s” indicates the connection is encrypted to protect your data.
Only submit private details to companies you have done business with previously and fully trust. If an unknown site is requesting this type of information unprompted, it is best to close the page immediately rather than risk identity theft. Taking a few extra precautions can go a long way in keeping your personal finances and information secure online.
2 Factor Authentication (2FA)
As cybercrime continues to evolve and becomes more sophisticated, it is important to take extra security precautions to protect your online accounts and information. One step that can significantly strengthen your defenses is enabling two-factor authentication wherever it is offered. Two-factor authentication, also called 2FA, adds an extra layer of protection beyond just a password.
With 2FA activated, logging into an account will require not just knowing your password, but also entering a unique code that is only valid for a short period of time. This one-time-use code is typically generated by an authenticator mobile app or sent as a text message. Even if a hacker was somehow able to learn your password through a data breach or phishing scam, they would still not be able to access your account without also having possession of your physical mobile device. Setting up 2FA makes it exponentially harder for cybercriminals to access sensitive accounts even if your password is compromised.
Take some time to ensure 2FA is activated for all of your important online profiles that support the security feature, such as email accounts, banking and finance apps, cloud services, and social media platforms. The extra step of requiring a second verification code beyond just a password can go a long way towards protecting your personal information and finances from would-be thieves on the internet. Implementing 2FA is a simple and effective way to add important defense layers against growing cyber threats.
Check Monthly To Keep Your Money Secure
Maintaining strong password security should be an ongoing process, not just a one-time effort. Even if you have utilized robust passwords in the past, it is important to periodically change them on a regular basis. Hackers are constantly exploiting new vulnerabilities and breaches may expose old password information. Changing your credentials frequently makes any stolen passwords much less useful to cybercriminals.
In addition to changing passwords monthly, be sure to use a unique password for each individual account. Avoid the temptation to reuse the same password across multiple logins, even with minor variations. If one site experiences a data breach, hackers could then try using your email and stolen password combination to access other accounts. Generating a separate, strong, random password for every profile you have helps prevent account takeovers, even if one login is compromised.
Consider using a password manager to securely generate and store complex, unique passwords that you would never be able to remember otherwise. Most modern password managers have apps and plugins that allow you to log into sites with just a master password.
Logout of Devices
As part of your monthly financial security routine, it’s important to take a close look at all of the devices that may currently have access to your various online accounts. Log into each service’s security settings page and check the list of computers, phones, or tablets that you’ve logged into recently. Cybercriminals may try to access your accounts through stolen or compromised devices without your knowledge.
Carefully examine each listed device. Do you recognize the name of the machine or its location? Have you personally logged into that specific device within the past month? If there are any unfamiliar or unrecognized entries, it’s best to immediately log out of that device from your account to revoke its access. This prevents thieves from continuing to access your sensitive information even if they’ve gained control of one of your signed-in devices without permission.
Also, log out of any devices you no longer actively use on a regular basis each month. Just because you logged into an old phone or computer in the past does not mean it still needs ongoing access now. Tightly controlling which machines can access your online profiles reduces vulnerabilities that hackers might exploit. Taking a few minutes monthly to review and prune logged in devices can help shore up an important layer of protection for your financial well-being.
‘;–have I been pwned?
As part of your monthly financial security routine, you should take some time to check if any of your email addresses or accounts may have been involved in a data breach. A great free tool for this is Have I Been Pwned, a website that tracks breaches and leaks of user credentials. By entering your email or username, you can check if that information has appeared in any compromised databases.
If Have I Been Pwned reports that one of your accounts has been involved in a breach, it’s important to take action right away. Hackers may attempt to use leaked credentials from breaches to access other accounts in your name. In the event of a match, change the password for that compromised account immediately and consider modifying passwords for any other profiles that used the same or a similar password. You should also watch your financial statements closely for suspicious activity in the coming months.
Check Yearly To Keep Your Money Secure
As the digital landscape expands each year, it’s common for us to accumulate many online accounts that may no longer be actively used. Whether they’re remnants from old email addresses, apps you tried once, or services you subscribed to in the past, inactive profiles can present unnecessary risks if they’re just sitting dormant. As part of your annual financial security review, take time to identify any accounts that are no longer needed.
Rather than simply ignoring unused logins, make sure to completely delete or deactivate them. Don’t just change the password and forget about them. Unused profiles with your personal information sitting in a company’s database could potentially be exploited in future data breaches since they aren’t being monitored or updated. Remove these extraneous accounts from the equation entirely.
When scrubbing through your list of online personas, terminate any profiles tied to services you’re no longer engaging with. Close out unused payment methods, shopping accounts with no recent activity, and logins for apps or sites you haven’t accessed in over a year. Tightening up your digital footprint in this way helps minimize potential vulnerabilities that come from neglected accounts accumulating over time. Taking a few hours annually for this cleanup process reduces your risk exposure.
Your tax file number (TFN) is a critical piece of personal identification used in Australia, so it is important to be extremely careful about sharing it. As a rule, you should never disclose your TFN to anyone unless there is a legitimate reason directly related to your tax or superannuation.
The only organizations that should need your TFN are the Australian Taxation Office (ATO), your current employer for tax withholding purposes, your superannuation fund, or your registered tax agent. Be wary of unsolicited requests for your TFN from other individuals or companies, as this could be a tactic of identity thieves. The ATO will never call you out of the blue to demand you disclose your TFN over the phone.
If someone contacts you claiming to work for a government department, bank, or other company and insists on getting your TFN, do not provide it. Instead, hang up and call the official customer service line of that organization to verify the request. Be cautious, as scammers may try to steal your TFN in order to commit tax or superannuation fraud. Only share your TFN with trusted entities directly involved in your tax or superannuation for legitimate purposes you have initiated. Protecting this sensitive number is crucial for safeguarding your identity and finances.
Tax Agent help if you’ve been scammed
If you believe your tax or personal information held by the ATO may have been compromised in a data breach, or if you think your tax file number has been stolen, it’s important to contact your registered tax agent as soon as possible. Your tax agent will be able to advise you on the next steps to take to secure your information, such as putting a credit freeze on your tax records and filing an identity theft report. They can also liaise directly with the ATO to investigate potentially fraudulent activity and help prevent further damage from occurring. Notifying your trusted tax agent right away is key in mitigating the impacts of a breach or identity theft incident involving your tax affairs.