Right now we are all using technology more than ever. We are fortunate to be able to see loved ones, gather information, and conduct business even while we are physically separated. While this is beneficial, it is not without risk. Please take a moment and read the below tips to help keep your personal information safe during this unusual time.

1 – Never let your inclination to be polite override your need to protect your information. Bad actors are taking advantage of this time to steal personal information and are not above manipulating, impersonating, and generally being counterfeit. Never disclose any personal information via unsolicited phone call, text message, email or online (such as account numbers, social security numbers, birth dates, passwords, etc.), even if it feels uncomfortable to refuse. Be wary of disclosing this information over the phone if you aren’t 100% certain of who you are talking to. If you receive a call requesting this information, don’t be afraid to ask to give them a quick call back and then call back on a number you know to be correct (not the one that just called you). Also be selective about the information you post on social media and other public sites; this could give hackers insight into your personal life that they can exploit.

2 – Be suspicious of emails that claim to be from a financial institutions, government agencies or other entities that that request account information or verification of account or login credentials (such as user names, passwords, PIN numbers, etc.) Premier Farm Credit will never request this kind of information over email. Be alert to odd, strangely worded or unexpected emails from friends and acquaintances, or business emails that contain misspellings or grammatical errors. Be wary of emails requiring you to verify or change your account information, as they often contain malicious code that could expose your login and account information to fraudsters. If you receive such an email, call the individual or entity immediately on a number you know to be valid and inquire/alert them.

3 – Be wary of emails with links or attachments. These links and attachments are often malicious and contain malware, spyware, ransomware and other malevolent ways to exploit individuals. If you are suspicious of any emails, call the company or individual with a phone number that you know to be correct and verify the request. If you use the contact information in the email, it might direct you to the fraudster. DO NOT CLICK ON THE LINKS OR DOWNLOAD the attachments until you have verified the information is legitimate.

4 – Guard against uninvited participants disrupting your video conversations. Hackers are increasingly interrupting video conferences with disruptive behavior (profanities, inappropriate images, threatening language, etc). This is sometimes known as “Zoom-Bombing”, and applies to online schooling, video meetings and work conferences across many different video conference platforms. Remember to always make your meetings private and do not share any VTC links or invite codes publicly. Be careful when discussing your personal information during video conferences or chats. And also make sure you are using the latest software version of your video conferencing application.

5 – Be Alert for Malicious Websites. There has been a huge spike in registered web addresses with names that contain ‘Corona’ or ‘COVID’. While some of these addresses are legitimate, others are malicious and can cause big problems for you down the road. These malicious links can be accessed through social media, text messages, emails and even sometimes from legitimate website domains. These sites may pose as online stores, offer products related to your personal needs, or offer information that appears relevant. Always remember to hover over any link to view the actual address before clicking. You can also utilize free tools such as VirusTotal.com to check URLs, copy and paste links into browsers instead of clicking on them directly, utilize security add-ons offered by the browser you use and validate the source of information being sent to your personal devices. Also, you should always maintain situational awareness and understand who’s using your devices within your network, home and business.