Easy Steps To Fraud Reduction

Phones, computers, and laptops — all are commonplace and integral to our daily lives. Sadly, deceptive practices and data breaches are just as widespread, and unscrupulous individuals continue to find unusual ways to disrupt our financial lives.

Virtru.com, a data encryption company, notes that improving data privacy starts with a fundamental respect for the data:

“When we treat our personal and business data with the respect it deserves, we manage it differently: We protect it, we pay attention to how it’s shared, and we do our best to maintain control of that data everywhere it travels.”

To start your data security journey, Virtru.com says to consider these questions:

  • Who can access my personal and professional data?
  • How can I improve my data privacy?
  • What are the most impactful changes I can make?

You can begin to implement a solid strategy by answering these questions honestly and thoughtfully. A plan includes discussing — and agreeing on a plan with your spouse or family. You may even want to put it in writing. The key? Be aware and educate yourself.

1. Be proactive with your devices.
This may include keeping devices locked with passwords, updating antivirus software, and taking care in how you use them.

    • Lock your phone, tablet, or laptop. Any device you use should have a password that locks the home screen. It’s the first deterrent if your device is lost or stolen. Also, consider using a “find my phone” app for greater safety. It can locate a lost or stolen device and enable you to disable it to prevent unwanted access.
    • Use strong passwords. Use a unique combination of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. The best passwords are at least 16 characters long for personal accounts. Keep passwords fresh by changing them every 90 days. Also, avoid the obvious, such as birthdates, anniversaries, or children’s names. Try password management apps like Keeper, 1Password, RoboForm, and others.
    • Keep antivirus software and devices up to date. Antivirus software, such as Bitdefender, Norton, or Kaspersky, can scan for potential issues on your computer or phone before they impact or intercept your data. While most providers send automatic updates for your computer, laptop, and phone, ensure you’re keeping devices current with the latest updates.
  1. Transact business safely.
    Much of what we do is completed fast, often while multi-tasking and without thinking through the transaction. There are simple ways to conduct business more safely in the online world.
    • Steer clear of public areas to shop or bank online. Avoid using public Wi-Fi; it’s easy for your data to become vulnerable in a public or shared computer setting. Instead, shop or bank online from your home network, which offers more substantial security options. If you must use public Wi-Fi, update your device settings immediately after completing a transaction. A VPN (a virtual private network) is another alternative if you frequently need to shop or bank online.
    • Use only secure websites. Look for the padlock or https in a company’s URL. Also, be vigilant for bogus websites that look like the real thing. They may look legitimate, featuring a similar (but still false) name. If unsure, end the transaction immediately and verify the company’s authenticity with the Better Business Bureau.
    • Do business with companies that require multifactor authentication. Multifactor authentication (MFA) is a security technology that requires multiple methods of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify a user’s identity for a login or other transaction. According to com, the goal is to create a layered defense making it more difficult for an unauthorized person to access a target, such as a physical location, computing device, network, or database.
  1. Sign for the transaction.
    You’re often given a choice of whether to sign for the transaction or enter your PIN at checkout. We always suggest signing for greater security.
    • Select credit, not debit. If unauthorized charges occur as a credit transaction, you’re responsible for only up to $50. With a debit card, all funds in your account can become vulnerable if you don’t report unauthorized charges in time.
    • Use your First United CU VISA® Credit Card. Credit card transactions are generally safer than debit because of the channels they clear through — with no chance of fraudsters accessing your checking funds. You also gain added security with VISA’s Zero Liability Purchase Protection.
  1. Monitor your financial life.
    You can deter fraud simply by staying on top of what’s happening in your account. This includes monitoring balances, keeping track of your credit report, and keeping your information current.
    • Review your credit report regularly. For a copy of your report, visit www.Equifax.com, www.Experian.com, or TransUnion.com. You can check for errors and see if any unauthorized activity has occurred.
    • Use Online and Mobile Banking and Alerts. Track your daily balances and watch for unusual transactions or transactions you didn’t make. Detecting fraud early is essential.
    • Implement card controls. For example, our mobile app lets you turn your debit or credit card on or off, set geographic locations, and monitor transactions.
    • Keep contact info up-to-date. We send valuable info via email and mail, and sometimes we need to reach you by phone. Please keep your contact information with us (and any company you do business with) current so your information gets to you, and we can contact you promptly. Regularly verify your address, phone number, cell phone, and email with any organizations you work with.
  1. Choose reliable businesses.
    Make data privacy an ongoing goal, and ensure that the businesses you choose protect your data with the latest technology and best practices. Virtru.com suggests that you “do some research on the social networking, email and communication apps you use, and understand how these platforms are collecting and using your data. Review your past emails and files stored in the cloud, and determine whether you’ve been sharing any sensitive data — such as credit card information, health records, or login credentials — and whether that data has been adequately protected…”

We do our part.

As your credit union, our systems offer the highest encryption levels possible, and our technology partners undergo an intense vetting process. Some of the ways we keep your data safe include:

  • Anti-virus and anti-malware protection. These actions watch for threats from viruses and malicious software.
  • Secure firewalls. Our enhanced firewalls block unauthorized access to your personal information.
  • Layers of encryption. Superior encryption levels provide a more secure browser connection when you log in, apply for a loan, or opt-in for any online product.
  • Multifactor authentication on transactions. With multifactor authentication, we will ask up to three questions that only you know the answers to. This extra step can prevent fraudsters from accessing your accounts.


Reach out! Call or text us at 616.532.9067 or send an email to Info@FirstUnitedCU.org. We can share more tips on keeping your data safe.

NerdWallet, Inc.