Outsmart Malicious Social Media “Friends”

Facebook, Twitter, Linked-In and other social media sites have profoundly impacted society in many ways.  They have facilitated reunions of old friends, helped people with similar interests find one another, allowed groups to organize more effectively and have helped businesses like PFCU grow.  Many of our new members found us online.  There has been a lot of talk about what to share and not to share online. Have you thought about that question in terms of answers to your security questions for our free Online Banking and Bill Pay services, as well as those of your other online accounts?  You should.

Multi-factor authentication, as we have discussed elsewhere, is an important way of staying a step ahead of identity thieves.  In an effort to share information with your friends on social media sites, however, you may be giving the answers to some of your security questions away.  In school, teachers punish students who get caught cheating but online if you unwittingly give the answers away you could get punished by financial loss or headaches with cleaning up the very real mess of fraudulent use of your accounts. 

Often people want to share their hometown on Facebook or other sites so that individuals they knew in childhood can find them.  That seems innocent enough, but often one of  your security questions will be “What city were you born in?”  One way around that is to determine alternative answers to those questions to use when setting up multi-factor authentication.  The trick here is not to forget those answers.  As it is, we often get phone calls from frustrated members who have forgotten the way they input the answers and find themselves locked out of their accounts.  Try to use the same combination of capital and lower case letters all the time in case-sensitive data fields, and don’t make that combination obvious.  For example, Pasadena might become pa$aDena.  Notice that we used a dollar sign instead of a letter ‘s’ and put the capital in an unusual place.  Someone born in New York might, instead, list the city that is home to their favorite sports team or the city their parent was born in.  As long as you remember, you will not tip off a criminal.  One woman who wanted to make sure her recently-divorced spouse could not access her accounts listed her mother’s maiden name as “freedom”.  A humorous answer like that may make it easier for you to remember how you answered the question. 

Often people will post their favorite foods, movies, performers or songs on social media sites because they enjoy those things.  Since many of those items may show up as security questions in the account set up process online, make sure you give different answers to ensure that you won’t hand your account over to thieves. 

While taking a few moments to review the answers to your account authentication questions may seem inconvenient, it is nothing compared to the hassle of cleaning up identity theft.  Since you’re already online, why not go through your accounts and make sure you haven’t revealed information thieves can use to steal from you?  That way you can enjoy the benefits of social media and rest easy about your online security.

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