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Fraud/Scam Tips While Working from Home

Tips & Tricks | December 28, 2021

When the pandemic hit, the number of people working from home five days a week rose from 17% to 44% according to a 2021 report from Statista Research Department. The advantages of working from home are plentiful but this sudden shift left little time to properly prepare for many of the pitfalls, one of which is online fraud.  While most offices have robust security to protect employees and equipment from internet threats, you may not have these advantages when working from home. Recently we sat down with Jon Fritz, Home Federal Network Engineer, to ask a few questions and get some advice about online security while working from home.

1. What should you be aware of if you work on your own laptop versus a company-issued laptop?

Jon: It’s probably best to have a separate computer that you use strictly for work. You don’t want to use a shared computer that kids use for gaming, surfing the web, etc. because a computer used like this is much more susceptible to malware. Follow the same guidelines on your home computer that you would on a work computer. Be smart about how you surf the web. Follow email phishing guidelines when reviewing your own personal email and keep your computer updated to the latest available version whether it’s a Mac or a Windows PC.

2. Why is it important to do your software updates? Will my computer automatically update my software?

Jon: Software updates could be the single most important item on a home user’s security checklist. Software companies are constantly finding weaknesses/vulnerabilities in their software and issue fixes as soon as they can. These “fixes” are done through the updates issued to you. If you don’t keep your software up to date, you are leaving your computer vulnerable to attack. Operating system updates are the most critical. Whether you have a Mac or a Windows PC, always keep your operating system updated. If you are not sure how to do this a quick google search will give you all the information that you need. You can also turn on automatic updates so you won’t have to constantly check for updates manually.

3. What password tips do you suggest?

Jon: Use a different, randomized password for all applications, online banking, email, etc. Don’t use dictionary terms. Your passwords should look like this: G*277$FaSj!41@, not this:  Spring2021!

If any application or website offers two-factor authentication, take the extra two minutes to set this up. Two-factor authentication is the combination of “something you have” and “something you know.” The “something you know” is your password. The “something you have” could be your cell phone or email address. Upon login, you will have a code texted or sent to you that must be entered. We are now at a point where using just a password should be considered the bare minimum.

4. Where should I keep my password document?

Jon: You shouldn’t have a password document. Don’t write your passwords down in a notebook and keep them at your desk. Don’t put your passwords in a word document on the desktop of your computer. These are not safe methods for protecting your passwords. Download a password manager on your smartphone. Go to the app store and search “password manager.” Read the reviews and pick one that seems to work best for you. Some cost money and others don’t.

Set up two-factor authentication to log into your password manager if it is offered. A password manager keeps all of your passwords in the app. You can organize your login information by category. The password manager can help you create randomized passwords as well. Best of all, everything in the password manager is encrypted and backed up in the cloud in case you lose your phone.

5. What should I know if I work on a public wifi like at a coffee shop?

Jon: Avoid public WiFi if you can. If you can’t, use a VPN service. Many companies will provide you with VPN tools to use on your personal computer to remote into their network. A VPN, or Virtual Private Network, allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the Internet. This keeps your computer safe from others connected to the same public WiFi. You can purchase VPN access from various companies if your company does not provide one.

6. What about backing up my files? Where should I back them up to?

Jon: Buy yourself an external hard drive. These can be found online and in most chain stores that sell electronics. They typically plug into a USB port on your computer. When connected, you can copy files to them. You should keep multiple digital copies of all files that are important to you. For an even better option, you can pay for online cloud storage. This is like an external hard drive hosted on the internet. Cloud storage can be accessed from anywhere. Since it is being hosted in the cloud, you would not lose your files if something physically happened to your computer.

7. What should I do to secure my router at home?

Jon: The instructions for every home router will tell you how to change your default administrator password. This is the number one thing you should do before you even start using it in your home. Secondly, set up a complicated WiFi password. Newer wireless routers also offer a guest WiFi feature. If yours has it, set it up. Don’t let guests connect to your main WiFi network, have them connect to the guest WiFi. This keeps your home network segregated and protected.

8. How do I know if I have a virus and what can I do to avoid them?

Jon: The signs are typically there:

  • Your computer runs slow.
  • You get random pop-ups that won’t go away when you surf the web.
  • Your web browser re-routes you to the same annoying webpage.
  • You experience random events on your PC that you are not doing yourself.
  • Your friends get emails from you that you didn’t send.
  • Your online accounts get locked out when you’re not trying to sign into them.

The red flags are usually there, you just have to notice them.

Getting rid of malware is more difficult than you might think. You can purchase anti-malware/anti-virus software. Use Google to research, read reviews, and see what others have to say. Most of these programs will have built-in tools for scanning your computer for viruses. You can always take your computer to a professional as another option.

9. How can I make sure my bank accounts are secure? What does Home Federal put into place to make sure my money is safe?

Jon: Use a complicated password and two-factor authentication for your online banking. Review your accounts weekly and look for suspicious activity. Report any suspicious activity immediately to your bank. Use a contactless payment service if your mobile phone supports it. These would be Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. These services allow you to digitize your debit and credit cards. When you use one of these services, your actual card number is not being used at the store. Your phone is generating a one-time use card number specific to that transaction. If that point-of-sale system is compromised they will not have your actual credit card/debit card number.

Home Federal offers a product called CardGuard. CardGuard helps prevent fraudulent activity on your debit card right from your smartphone. With CardGuard you can:

  • Create spending limits for family members or employees.
  • Set transaction alerts based on amounts, locations, or merchant types.
  • Receive instant notifications when a transaction occurs outside of the GPS location of your smartphone.
  • Turn your debit card ON or OFF at any time, straight from your smartphone.

Home Federal also monitors our users’ accounts for suspicious activity. If you used your debit card at a gas station in your hometown and 30 minutes later we see a transaction in California, this will throw a red flag for us to investigate. If we receive notification that a client’s card was possibly compromised at a retailer, we will immediately issue a new card to prevent fraud. We are constantly on the lookout.

Jon works day in and day out in online security, but when working from home, we understand that security isn’t your career like it is for Jon. That’s why it is important to make an effort and take the steps to help keep fraud at bay when working from home. While you do that, know that Home Federal has your back. Our network team is constantly keeping watch and deploying tactics to keep your information and money safe.

Still have questions? We’re here for you, reach out anytime.

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