Be sure to protect your online identity

July 23, 2014 at 2:23 a.m.

What's the most valuable thing on your computer? Family photos? Vacation videos? While those memories are important to you, your financial information is of far more interest to criminals who may be creeping into your computer, smartphones and tablets.

Cyberfraud and identity theft go hand in hand. Once a hacker has your account and personal identification numbers, he or she can make purchases using your credit cards or empty your bank account in a matter of minutes. If you've ever made an online purchase or accessed your bank account remotely, the information they need is most likely stored somewhere in your computer.

The best way to defend yourself from these cyber attacks is by implementing your own cyber security system.

Read your statements

Most people let their bank and credit card statements roll by without much notice. They look at the bottom line and deal with it accordingly. Check the transactions. While you probably won't recall every single transaction (Did I really buy a cup of coffee that day?), you'll notice anything out of the ordinary. (Did I really buy a motorcycle that day?) Fraudsters are counting on sneaking under your radar.

Build a wall

Use reputable virus/malware/spyware protection software. Your computer is under constant attack. Just because you were protected yesterday doesn't mean you're protected today. Keep your security software up to date.

Get real

People don't give away millions of dollars or islands in the Caribbean. Never open hyperlinks or attachments connected with email from an unknown source. This is a favorite tactic used to deliver malicious software to your computer while you're reading a sales pitch or watching what appears to be a harmless video.

Watch your mouth

We all share information on the Internet - sometimes inadvertently, and sometimes, with people we don't know. Do you discuss vacation plans on social networks? Do you know who's keeping track of when you'll be out of town? Have you ever shared someone else's message and accidently given out some information they'd rather keep quiet? It happens every day. Be aware that you don't know who's listening to your online conversations.

Make it tough

Don't use the same password over and over. Lots of people pick one password - something easy to remember - and use it for every transaction. That means once a hacker has your password for one account, he or she has your password for every account. Don't make it easy for thieves to open the door to every credit card or bank account you have with a single key.

'App'ly some caution

Millions of apps are downloaded to smart phones every day. Are they all legitimate? Not likely. Only download apps from reputable sources.

Be Wi-Fi wary

Many businesses provide Wi-Fi hot spots to make accessing the Internet quick and easy for their customers. While meant as a convenience, they can be a security risk. If the site you're accessing isn't fully encrypted, from the time you sign on until the time you sign off, any data on your computer, not just what you transmit, is accessible.

The Internet is a great source of information and entertainment and a convenient shopping and banking tool when used carefully. Remember, someone is in control of your private information. Make sure it's you.

Kevin Mullins is the senior vice president of electronic services for IBC Bank and oversees the operational oversight of products and services including online banking, card services, mobile banking, corporate treasury management and merchant services.



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