Forget your front door. Criminals are breaking in through your computer.

This is called cybercrime and it can lead to the theft of your personal information and/or funds. Once criminals have access to your electronic device, they can steal funds from your bank accounts or investment accounts, sell your (for example) credit card number online, open other accounts in your name, or other dastardly deeds.

How to protect yourself

  • Activate privacy and security settings in your software, email system and web browsers.
  • Update software and operating systems by installing updates as soon as they are offered. Using the “auto update” setting is the best way to ensure timely updates.
  • Use strong passwords … ones that are at least 10 characters in length, and have upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols. Never choose passwords like “password” or “football”; cybercriminals employ programs that automatically try every word in the dictionary in an effort to break in.
  • Be cautious about email links and attachments. Even emails purportedly from friends and family could be forgeries, and clicking a link or attachment could help a cybercriminal access your device. When in doubt, delete it.
  • Use social media cautiously. Cybercriminals can easily find answers to website and bank security questions on social media … like the color of your car or your mom’s maiden name. Be sure to activate privacy settings and think carefully about what you’re willing to share online.
  • Review your financial statements regularly. Cybercriminals are adept at exploiting online weaknesses and your accounts could get hacked through no fault of your own. Contact your financial institution immediately if you spot any suspicious activity on your statement.

What to do if you’re a victim

  • Notify your bank, and any other institutions where you have accounts, that someone may be using your account fraudulently.
  • Go to to request a free credit report; one of the three major credit bureaus … Experian, TransUnion, or Equifax … to place a fraud alert; and all three to place a credit freeze on accounts.
  • Report acts of cybercrime to local, state, or federal authorities, depending on the scope of the crime.
  • If you need assistance reporting cybercrime, contact: your bank, your local police department, your State Attorney General’s Office, and/or the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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