Author: Hannah Lewis
Originally published by: Grant Park Neighborhood Association
As I walk through nearby Grant Park, I can’t help but notice the flowers blooming and think about days growing longer as we enter the spring—giving me extra energy. It’s no wonder that a new season often inspires us to participate in the centuries-old spring-cleaning ritual. Decluttering and starting fresh promotes many health benefits and improves well-being, like improved focus, decreased stress, elevated mood and better-quality sleep. Similarly, getting our digital homes in order can benefit our financial health. As OnPoint Community Credit Union’s Hollywood Branch Manager, I’m keenly aware of community concerns about cybercrime, especially as people increasingly rely on digital tools and scammers use more sophisticated methods to access information.
Five tips to get your digital home in order this spring
Social media, for example, creates a significant vulnerability for people of all ages. In 2021, more than 93% of LinkedIn’s user base—700 million users—were victims of a cyberattack with their information put up for sale on the dark web. Although it’s difficult to insulate yourself from cybercrime completely, there are proactive steps you can take, including:
- Dispose of digital clutter. Properly dispose of old computers, cell phones, external hard drives, and disks. Clean out your devices’ folders by deleting contents in your downloads folder and removing files with sensitive information. Instead, use an external hard drive or cloud storage to secure sensitive data. If you do add information to the cloud, make sure you have multifactor authentication enabled for your login as an extra precaution.
- Scrub privacy and security settings. Make a list of all your email and social media accounts and delete any unused profiles. Review your social media, browser, and email accounts, and update your preferences. Take time to understand what information you are sharing within your accounts and scale it back wherever possible. Lastly, check to see if your login credentials have been compromised–if so, update usernames and passwords.
- Organize and protect your usernames and passwords. Using different usernames and long, unique passwords that are hard to guess but easy to remember will make breaching multiple websites more difficult for attackers. When available, use two-factor authentication and a password manager to safely store your passwords and usernames.
- Check your credit report annually. Another great way to monitor any unwanted or suspicious activity on your accounts is by pulling your credit report annually. Your credit report is a valuable tool to help guard against identity theft or cyber-fraud as you look to protect your personal information from cyber-criminals. If you don’t have plans to open new credit accounts, you might consider freezing your credit as an added precaution.
- Do not share your personal information over the phone. Never share your personal information or login credentials such as username, account numbers, and social security numbers over the phone. Your financial institution and the government will never initiate contact and ask for your personal information over the phone or by email. If you are concerned about your account’s status or security, hang up and call the number on the back of your ATM card to ensure you are talking with an actual representative from your financial institution.
Like spring cleaning, it’s a good idea to set time aside every year to proactively revisit your online security to protect yourself from scams. If you have questions, my team and I encourage you to visit our branch at 3030 NE Weidler Street. We’d be happy to speak with you and assist in helping you take a proactive approach to your personal cybersecurity. Ask about the OnPoint Guide to Personal Cybersecurity, a free resource full of actionable guidance to help keep you safe from fraudsters.