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You work hard for the money you earn and save, so with new cyber fraud scams cropping up all the time, keeping your accounts secure is critical. October is Cyber Security Awareness Month, so we will be sharing a series of cyber security tips to help you keep your money and your private information safe. This week, we will look at how to handle requests from service providers and tips for protecting personal information to make sure it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

If someone you didn’t know walked up to you on the street asking for your online banking ID, would you give it to them? Probably not! However, if you were to receive an email from John Smith, your new health insurance account representative, you may be more likely to share sensitive information. But before you reply to Mr. Smith’s email with your login information, here are a few things to think about first.

Learn the methods of communication for your accounts.

Between financial institutions, healthcare providers and retirement accounts, there are a lot of organizations that require your personal information to provide the best possible service for you, the customer. Each one follows its own set of rules when it comes to handling and protecting personal information to make sure it remains secure. Learning how your organizations communicate with you can help you spot suspicious activity before your data can be compromised.

For example, consider the email from John Smith at your health insurance company. Even if his email contained a company logo and authoritative email signature, if your health insurance provider does not normally communicate with you via email, you should think twice before responding to Mr. Smith’s message, never mind sending him sensitive information.

Know what information they already have.

Remembering which of the service providers you use has your middle initial on file and which does not can be difficult. After all, it may have been ten years since you walked into your bank as a first-time customer or signed up for a flurry of services when you accepted a new job. But without looking through your accounts, you should have a rough idea of which provider has what information.

Take another look at what John Smith from your health insurance company was asking for. Does it make sense that a provider that has your account on file would ask you for your login information? In most cases, this would not make sense. Knowing what types of information your various service providers already have can help you sense a problem before it starts.

If you’re not sure about a communication, do this.

We’ve all heard the phrase “better safe than sorry,” and it is especially true when it comes to protecting personal information from potentially malicious users. Depending on the information shared, more than one of your accounts could be at risk, so if you are ever unsure about the source of communication, follow these steps.

  1. Find an authorized correspondence such as a bill or card affiliated with your account and use the contact information listed. Even if an organization calls you, you have the right to call back using your authorized phone number. You might not get the same service representative, but you will be routed to someone who can help you.
  2. If you suspect your account has been compromised, change your password immediately.
  3. You may want to consider contacting the organization using one of their authorized communication channels to report the suspicious activity. They may be able to place your account under observation and offer additional steps to protect your account.

Knowing how organizations that have access to your personal information typically communicate with you and what data they already have can help keep your money and sensitive information safe. Trust your instincts and when in doubt, contact your organization through secure channels. For more cyber security tips, subscribe to our FutureTrack Blog.

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