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The Internet has made it more convenient for people to shop, pay bills and communicate with each other. On the other hand, it has also made it easy for crooks to commit identity theft and fraud. Take these three steps to protect yourself while online.
1. Play keep away with your personal information
Be skeptical of any email that appears to come from a broker, bank or other trusted company that asks you to “verify,” “confirm” or “update” your personal information. Never reply to such an e-mail by sharing personal information, such as your social security number, account numbers, credit card information or passwords. The Internet is rife with scam emails containing links to legitimate-looking sites especially created for identity theft. If you want to do a reality check on such incoming e-mails, don’t reply to the email. Instead, correspond with the company yourself by looking up the phone number or email address and question company representatives to confirm if the e-mail is authentic.
2. Remember that regular email is not secure
Never put any of your personal financial information or ID/login details in an Internet-based e-mail (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail, etc.), as information contained in your message can be hijacked and forwarded, especially if you use email apps on a smartphone or tablet, which could easily be misplaced or stolen, then used for fraud and other malicious purposes. This pertains to your communications with Alliant, as well. If you want to communicate confidential information to Alliant support staff, instead of using email, you should use our Secure Messages platform accessible through Alliant Online Banking. Messages within Alliant Online Banking are 100% secure because they are transmitted only between Alliant’s internal servers, and are not transmitted outside our systems.
To send a secure message to Alliant, log in to Alliant Online Banking, then click “Messages” at the top of the right sidebar. After you’ve entered the “Secure Messages” system, click the “Compose” button and type your question or request. You can safely include account-specific information within the Secure Messages system with confidence.
Please note that if you instead send a regular, unsecured email to us – one that is not sent through Alliant Online Banking’s Secure Messages page – it can delay your receipt of the information you need. In order to maintain the integrity of the personal and confidential information entrusted to us by members, when we receive a regular, unsecure email, we will answer only general questions, but not those that are account-specific. This is because we can’t be confident that it was really you who initiated the web-based email; it could be someone who somehow accessed your email account for fraudulent purposes and is trying to get information about your accounts. This means that, as an example, if we receive an unsecure email from your email address asking what the minimum deposit is for an Alliant Certificate, we would send you that information in reply, as it is general information that is not specific to your account. But if an email from your email address instead asked us when your Alliant Certificate is due to mature, for your protection, we would NOT send that account-specific financial information in response.
3. Don’t open attachments from unknown sources
Email attachments can contain sinister viruses or worms specifically designed to cause havoc on your computer. Even e-mail attachments from trusted sources and friends can inadvertently contain viruses. Be sure to have reliable and updated virus software installed to scan all attachments before you open them. A couple of other precautions: Change your computer password regularly, using numbers, letters and characters. And always log out when you’re finished using your computer. Plus, if you’re using a public terminal, be sure to clear your history and cookies when you’re done using the terminal, then exit the browser you’re using.
Sources: secureflorida.org, onguardonline.gov and ccsd.k12.co.us