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Cybersecurity Alert: Ways to Protect Yourself from Hackers and Scammers

As the compliance officer at AlphaMark Advisors, I am constantly searching for cybersecurity-related information to use internally to protect our data.  

From a business standpoint we take several precautions including ongoing employee training, using a robust firewall to protect our network, ensuring our software is up-to-date to prevent known spyware and viruses, and undergoing preventive maintenance on a regular basis.

In addition, we work with partners like Charles Schwab who are diligent about protecting the clients’ accounts with complex procedures and processes to verify client identity.

I am sharing the following suggestions in an effort to help protect you and your data from hackers and scammers.

 

Do not give any personal information or money to anyone you do not know.

  • Be careful who you share your personal information with, whether over the phone or through email. Never give out your investment, credit card, banking, Social Security number, Medicare information, or other personal information over the phone unless you initiated the call. If you aren’t sure if something is legitimate or not, ask a trusted friend or relative for advice.
  • The IRS will never call you. (If they need you, they will send a letter)
  • Beware of inheritances from long lost relatives where they ask you to pay fees to get the inheritance, aka the “Grandparent Scam” from someone claiming to be your grandchild calling on the phone in a crisis that needs you to give them money, a friend or relative’s Facebook page asking for emergency money (who has been hacked) or getting a call from someone that you’ve been selected to receive a grant for thousands of dollars from a government program. If someone asks you to pay fees to get something “free,” it is not legit!

 

Create password protection.

  • Use a strong password. Passwords more than 14 letters with a combination of letters, numbers and symbols will help deter hackers’ programs from gaining access to your logons. (HINT: Make the password a title of a favorite book or show that would be easier to remember.) There are password manager programs available that will manage the process for you, in case you’re tired of trying to think of new passwords. Examples are LastPass and 1Password.
  • Do not email passwords to anyone – especially using the word “password” or “user name” in the same email as the actual password.
  • Don’t use the same password for all your important sites.  If a hacker gets into one of your accounts, you don’t want to give them access to all your accounts.

 

Protect your computer.

  • Make sure you use a reputable computer antivirus program. Update your Windows and antivirus program on a regular basis to stay current. Software developers are constantly closing loopholes to stop hackers, but you need the latest fixes on your computer to protect yourself.
  • Use an additional free program called Malwarebytes on a regular basis to clean spyware or malware that results from accessing everyday sites on the internet. This can be an easy fix if your computer starts acting strangely. It can also eliminate annoying pop-ups.
  • Do not open emails from people you do not know. They may be phishing scams. Just clicking on an email could allow a hacker to gain access to your PC.
  • Do not open email attachments unless you are really sure of their origin. Attachments are one of the easiest ways for hackers to put malicious software on your computer.
  • Be leery of opening links from friends that look suspicious. Your friend or relative’s email or Facebook may have been compromised by a hacker.
  • Update your internet browsers from time to time.
  • If you were routed to a website you did not intend to be on, leave it immediately.
  • Don’t use public wi-fi when accessing critical data (banking or work information). Use a personal hotspot on your cell phone when traveling. Don’t use hotel or coffee shop wifi, since hackers could be right next to you trolling for data access.
  • Remotely backup important files from your computer. If you get a detrimental virus, your computer may have to be wiped clean. You don’t want to lose family pictures or other valuable data that can’t be replaced.

 

Here are some additional links for more information:

FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Investor Alerts and Bulletins

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