With greater numbers of people online for longer periods of time, cybersecurity has become more important than ever. The tips below will help you avoid fraud and financial loss while using electronics.
Smart work-from-home strategies
Working outside your company’s physical location can put your—and their—security at heightened risk.
- DO get help from your IT department. Using your company’s virtual private network (VPN) and firewalls, which tend to be more secure than private residents’, is essential to protecting sensitive information.
- DO take cover. Cover your computer’s camera and audio outputs after you’ve finished a remote conference. Scammers can hack into these functions to gather information.
- DO analyze every “work” email. You know the way your office usually communicates. If something seems off about the wording, who it’s from, or the recipient list, pick up the phone to verify its legitimacy. Scammers may be attempting to steal your username and password as you reenter them on a fake site as part of your “company’s” directions.
- DON’T work from anywhere but home. On the rare occasions you leave the house—for a doctor’s appointment, perhaps—you may be tempted to use public internet access to get work done while you wait. But these free Wi-Fi connections are much easier to hack.
- DON’T forward files. Sending documents from your work email to your private email is a recipe for disaster. Not only is your private account easier to hack, but it opens you up to liability issues.
Anxiety can override our usual sense of caution about electronic communication, so commit to extra vigilance about any correspondence.
- DO use caution with health agency emails. Scammers know you want to stay updated on the coronavirus, so they’ll use the name of organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to tempt you to open an email and/or click on its links. Be skeptical, especially if it asks you to download anything.
- DO beware of coronavirus subject lines. Whether it’s an email touting a “cure” for coronavirus or an email designed to scare you or pique your interest into opening it (ie: “What the government doesn’t want you to know about coronavirus”), err on the side of safety by deleting it. It’s likely a scam or loaded with attachments that will wreck your files.
- DON’T trust new coronavirus sites. Get your information from trusted organizations like the CDC, rather than from one of the thousands of new websites that have popped up recently with “coronavirus” in their names. They’re usually a portal for malware.
- DON’T open attachments from unexpected senders. Bogus email attachments are the easiest way to compromise your information and hardware. If you weren’t expecting the email—even if you know the sender—don’t click on a link or attachment. The sender’s contacts list may have been hacked.
Safeguard your finances
A global pandemic is a potential goldmine for cyber criminals, who prey on our natural desire to help others and protect our families.
- DO give wisely. Everyone wants to help people impacted by coronavirus, but do your homework before donating to a charity. Make sure it’s an established organization before giving your hard-earned money (or credit card information) to a potential scammer.
- DO be careful about sellers. Individuals advertising sanitizers, masks, toilet paper and other items in short supply might very well be scammers. At the very least, these sellers may be hoarding supplies and trying to profit off actions that put others in danger.
- DON’T fall for medical lies. There’s no at-home test for coronavirus at present, nor is there a cure or vaccine.
- DON’T respond to claims about government money. Details haven’t been announced about how federal funds will be distributed to Americans during the pandemic, so a text or email saying you can access that money right now is a scam.
Lastly, please know that F&M Bank will never ask for personal identifiable information (PII) or account information via text or email. When in doubt, call your favorite branch or 704.633.1772, to verify that any questionable looking communication from F&M Bank is genuine.
Protect others by reporting fraud
If you’ve seen or, worse, experienced online fraud, help prevent others from potential problems by reporting it. Attorney General William P. Barr has announced that he is prioritizing the investigation and prosecution of suspected fraud related to COVID-19 (see examples above). To report such a scheme, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or email the NCDF at email@example.com.