Credit Unions and Cyber Fraud: Protect Your Finances and Identity

Email, social media, and the internet forge connections. But they also create points of entry for fraudsters.

Here’s how to find a balance.

You might not want to think about “credit union” and “fraud” in the same sentence. The thought of outsiders disrupting your personal finances and discrediting your reputation is scary. However, when it comes to managing your online persona and protecting your finances, you need to keep your eyes wide open. Simply crossing your fingers and hoping for the best is not a safe management method.

That said, there are ways to remain aware of the various triggers and dangers without feeling anxious all the time. Doing your research and staying informed helps. Identity theft—or the deliberate and fraudulent use of someone’s personal information to gain access to finances or open accounts—remains a real concern. While overall fraud rates recently fell 15%, according to financial research and consulting firm Javelin’s 2019 Identity Fraud Study, those who were impacted took a big hit. The research speaks to why it’s important to actively get smart about the realities of fraud.

So, as credit unions offer more online resources and perks, like mobile banking and deposit, know that it’s okay to have an online presence. And, especially as credit union members adjust to a socially distant world and change habits, remote banking is important. The ability to call your credit union or check your account balance online means you can stay connected to your finances without leaving the house.

Additionally, social media and online profiles have become a natural part of life: 50% of the global population is using social media. If you’re online, your credit union is online, and your finances are online, what does this mean for fraudsters? More importantly, how can you safely turn to your credit union and turn away from cyber fraud?

Protecting Personal Information

“Personal information is today’s currency,” Michelle Drolet, CEO of Towerwall, a woman-owned information security services provider based Massachusetts, wrote in Forbes. “Information on what you like, where you go, whom you are friends with—any information that describes who you are is valuable data.”

Quizzes, romance scams, posers, and clickbait can attract people to give away even more of their information. And, if someone has researched you online, they may already know enough about you to sound like a friend. Yet they are anything but.

Taking certain steps as you establish and build your online identity can help reduce threats.

  • When you set up a new social media account, use a strong, unique password that is exclusive to that account. A password manager, which is like a vault for your access codes, can help.
  • Set your account to private whenever possible and be careful not to accept friend requests on personal platforms from people you do not know.
  • Avoid revealing too much information in bios and quizzes, especially information that could fill in the blanks for a fraudster, like a pet’s name or address.
  • Keep track of all accounts. Limit your digital footprint by deleting any accounts you no longer use.
  • Install anti-virus software on your home computer and remember that using public WiFi could create an opening for a hacker.

You may not think of your social media profile when thinking about your credit union safety. While your credit union should be taking their own measures to keep your finances safe, you need to do your part. Through the information you share, you could open yourself up to fraud.

Your Credit Union Can Help

woman entering cybersecurity information to computerCredit unions and their members are part of a team. So, when protecting yourself from fraud, rely on the experts at your credit union. At the same time, your credit union can also take steps toward effective cyber fraud prevention.

“When you think of a credit union’s security infrastructure, cybersecurity may not immediately come to mind, as hacking and malware are often thought of as separate from physical security efforts. But the two are quickly becoming intertwined, as bad actors now use more sophisticated and unique methods to gain access to networks, data and assets,” Matt Tengwall of Verint Fraud and Security Solutions, wrote in Security magazine.

Internally, credit unions should install regular updates and firmware on network devices and practice password hygiene, and encourage their members to do the same. Credit unions can also use their platforms and communications to help disseminate information about potential scams. By raising awareness of cyber fraud, your credit union keeps members informed and safe. It can be as simple as incorporating an article on the danger of cyber fraud into a newsletter or establishing a social media campaign around cyber fraud warnings.

Be Vigilant and Make It a Habit

Unfortunately, cyber fraud isn’t going away. That means keeping an eye on your social media profiles and financial information needs to be a habit. This isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it thing.

Additionally, credit unions can discourage fraud by letting members know what to do in a potential emergency. Fraudsters often play on people’s emotions. Think about how you feel in an emergency and how your guard might be lowered. If you ever doubt the veracity of a phone call or email, instead of replying or clicking on a suspicious link, get in touch with your credit union directly. Fraudsters have increasingly sophisticated methods of tricking people. It might be easier than you think to be fooled, so it doesn’t hurt to double check information.

Being a skeptic is not a bad personality trait when it comes to your financial safety and security. Credit union members can also make use of technology to keep an eye out. The ability to check accounts on mobile is helpful, because it means you’re never far away from knowing the details of your account. Similarly, keep tabs on your credit score.

If you don’t know how to check something, ask your credit union about what resources are available. Together, you can stay informed to keep the worst from happening to your financial wellbeing.

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