First Bank offers tips for staying secure online

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Online fraud occurs when someone poses as a legitimate source (like your bank, favorite shopping site or internet provider) to obtain your personal information — data that can then be used to conduct transactions on existing accounts, experts at First Bank said in a news release.

People who commit fraud use a variety of methods to ply their trade, including fake emails, pop-up messages and/or web sites, officials said.

“An actual bank would never ask you to provide, verify or update your personal information by sending an email, a text or using a pop-up message or link,” First Bank Senior Vice President, Director of Product and Segment Management Chris Kieffer said. “If you receive such a message that appears to be from your bank requesting you to provide or validate personal information, do not respond.”

According to Kieffer, bank representatives may call you regarding activity on your account or you may be contacted through the bank’s automated systems to verify transaction activity on your accounts such as debit card or online banking activity.

“For your protection, most banks will ask you to verify your zip code or transaction activity,” Kieffer said.

Another type of fraud can occur, when you sell something online, he said.

“Be very suspicious if your buyer issues a check for an amount greater than the cost of the item,” he said. “In this type of fraud, the seller is asked to wire the difference back to the purchaser. Frequently, the original check used for the purchase is counterfeit or forged.”

This way, the seller is not only out the item but also any money that was returned to the purchaser as an “overpayment.”

“You should be suspicious even if the check is a money order or government check,” he said.

To avoid being a victim of online fraud, First Bank recommends taking these steps:

• Protect your personal information, account numbers, User ID & password, card numbers and PINs. Use caution when providing this information to anyone over the Internet.

• Keep your password confidential. Change passwords regularly using a combination of numbers, letters and special characters. Avoid using obvious passwords like mother’s maiden name, children or pet names, Social Security Number or date of birth.

• Install and update anti-virus software regularly. To learn more about computer security, visit the FTC’s Information Security web site.

• Install anti-spyware on your computer to help prevent your personal and account information from being collected without your knowledge.

• Make sure your computer is updated with the most recent patches and security updates.

• Never send personal or account information using your personal email. To send this information, use the bank’s messaging feature in online banking.

• Immediately delete any emails from an unknown source without opening it. If you do open a suspicious email, never click on a link or attachment provided in the email.

• Be cautious of emails that warn you that your account may be at risk, fraudulent activity or charges exist on your account or convey a sense of urgency. These often include details of the suspicious activity requesting you respond to the email or ‘click here’ to visit their site to update your information.

• Prior to sending confidential information or financial transactions through a website, look for the lock icon on your status bar in the lower right corner. This signifies information is secure during transmission.

• Be careful when using a computer in a public area where someone could watch you enter your User ID and password.

• Review your account statements promptly and report any discrepancies or suspicious transactions immediately.

• Clean the hard drive of a computer before disposing of it.

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