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Staying Safe Online

With so many of us staying at home and using our phones and computers more than usual, scammers are finding new ways to trick us into sending them money. According to Google’s Safe Browsing service, there has been a 350% increase in phishing websites (tricking users into typing in usernames and passwords or sharing other private information) since the beginning of the year.

Here are some of the ways you can stay safe online.


  1. Do not open e-mails or attachments from unknown individuals.

  2. Monitor your bank account statements regularly, and your credit report at least once a year for any unusual activity. Related article: How to check your credit and freeze your credit report

  3. Do not communicate with unsolicited e-mail senders.

  4. Use strong passwords and do not use the same password for multiple websites. Related article: Tips for secure passwords

  5. Never provide personal information of any sort via e-mail.  

  6. Ensure security settings for social media accounts are activated and set at the highest level of protection.

  7. Verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type the address into your browser.

  8. Work with your CPA to obtain a PIN number from the IRS to file your income tax return.
  9. Finally, sign up for a monitoring service. Some options include the following:
    • LifeLock
    • Zander Insurance
    • ID360 - see below for more information and a special discount

Recognizing Suspicious Content

You’ve probably heard of “phishing” emails: they’re emails that look like they come from an organization you may know or do business with, such as a retailer, bank, internet service provider, or the like. They try to trick you into clicking on a link that may ask for personal information such as passwords or credit card numbers, which the criminals can then use, or possibly infect your computer with a virus or ransomware that might be difficult or expensive to get rid of. And these bad actors are getting smarter every day—at first glance, many phishing emails look completely legitimate.

It’s important to stay safe online. Here’s a list of some of the common types of suspicious content and how to recognize it so you’re ready to navigate this tricky new reality:     

  1. Check links by hovering over them with your cursor so you can see the name of the link. If the sender appears to be a legitimate business entity, but when you hover over the email address it shows an unrelated name and/or domain, don’t click! Instead, go online and manually type in the business’ address, or call them to see if it’s legitimate.       
  2. Look carefully for misspellings or substitutions; for example, using the number zero in place of the letter O.

  3. Don’t click on attachments that contain an “executable” extension type, such as .bat, .js, or .exe. In fact, don’t click on attachments at all!

  4. Be wary if the email implies you can avoid a negative consequence or gain something of value if you click a link.

  5. Don’t believe emails promising quick fixes or seemingly unreal promises, like cheap pharmaceuticals, an inheritance, or romantic connections, for example. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

The best single piece of advice is, “If you can’t confirm it, don’t click it!” This is a good time to remind you that financial professionals aren’t permitted to do business by email. 

Simply taking a little time to look carefully at emails you don’t recognize can help you avoid the consequences of phishing and fraudulent messages that are trying to compromise your digital safety.

While this topic is fresh, you may want to consider identity theft protection. Fraud alerts and credit freezes have value but will not detect many forms of identity fraud with existing accounts or criminal, medical, or Social Security misuse.

Developed by former law enforcement and security experts, ID360 is goes beyond simply monitoring credit by using a system to help clients prevent, detect and recover from identity theft, and is available to you at a substantial discount. Visit to learn more.

Keep Smart Devices Safe

Smart devices can make life more efficient and convenient, but they can also make it more convenient for bad actors who want to leverage all that smart efficiency to compromise your security and leave you vulnerable to attack. 

Here are some tips to help you secure the smart devices in your home:

  1. Check the settings for all your smart devices and use the latest software. Don’t use the device’s default settings (name, password, etc.). Be sure every device is using the latest firmware or software: if the device doesn’t update automatically, you can download it from the manufacturer’s website, which will also have instructions. While you’re at it, disable any features you don’t need on your smart devices, which gives those bad actors fewer ways to access your home. Finally, you can often program your own “wake word” for devices like Amazon’s Alexa or Google Home, making it less likely a bad actor can use the devices to unlock doors, for example.

  2. Make your wireless router safer. Give your router a new name—don’t use the one it came with and be sure not to use any of your household names (people or pets), any part of your street address, or any name that would give away personal information. Use a strong password and check your router’s manual to be sure you are using WPA2 settings (you can learn more here). You can also create a guest network with a separate password for visitors. In addition to using this for guests to your home, you can connect smart devices to this network, which will limit access to your personal computers and all the information they contain.

  3. Set up two-factor authentication. Most devices and accounts allow you to set up two-factor authentication, which means you’ll need to confirm your identity with a specific code when you sign in from an unfamiliar device. This can help prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to your smart devices and causing trouble. 

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