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Whether you are checking your mobile banking app, ordering from Amazon, or paying a bill online — it’s impossible to ignore how technology has advanced into the world of money and finance.

After all, we live in a world that loves convenience or anything that makes life just a little easier. This is why fast food, DoorDash, and Uber drivers can make so much money- they’re in the business of convenience.

If you ask someone on the street if they carry cash — other than the strange look you may receive — they will probably tell you no.

How many Girl Scouts or Boy Scout troops have started taking debit and credit cards as a payment option because folks are no longer carrying cash?

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Financial technology has decreased the need to carry your cash, and even your card, around for purchases. 

We can even make money with our smartphones by scanning in our shopping receipts after we’ve finished ordering our groceries online. We can literally do so much with technology to avoid human to human interaction.

But this begs the question…

Are we trusting technology too much with our money?

Everyday someone is forced to live in the reality of having their personal information stolen and used for someone else’s benefit.

While theft, is not an unfamiliar topic – the ways in which theft evolves with technology is. The same technology that makes life a bit easier for us can also put us at risk.

Here are a couple of scenarios in which your money could be jeopardized

Data Breaches

Unless you’ve been isolated from news and social media — or you’ve just lived under a rock — you’ve no doubt heard of the Equifax data breach that occurred in 2017 affecting millions and millions of people.

Unfortunately, data breaches have become a part of our new reality with the emergence of financial technology that offers a variety of different ways to pay and receive money. 

Every year we hear about how some store had credit card information stolen. This usually happens around the holidays when everyone is out Black Friday Shopping or Cyber Monday due to the influx of shoppers.

While it’s convenient to store our financial information for future purchases, our data isn’t always safe. Hackers find ways to breach servers and security measures to access our private information, including — but not limited to — our financial information. 

This allows them to, in turn, use any information of their choosing. When the hackers begin using this stolen information it then becomes identity theft. 

Fraudulent Scams

We’ve all — no doubt — been on the receiving end of a call, email, or website that sounded too good to be true as a scammer promised lump sums of cash for the low price of some off the wall number. Or offer a get rich quick scenario for only $99.

Finding free stuff online is great, but with so many scam websites out there, it’s hard to tell the difference between fake and real opportunities.

Sometimes scammers even pretend to be employees of utility companies, the IRS, and more just hoping that you won’t know the difference and tell them everything they would like to know. 

This makes it very important to verify a company before giving any financial information.

Most companies will only ask you to verify the last 4 digits of your card number — if your card is already on file. The sad truth is that people fall prey to these schemes every day and believe in their cheap words, especially the elderly. 

It’s not always the elderly being targetted on phone calls or a Nigerian prince on the other side of the email. It could be anybody, anywhere and at any time.

Make sure you do your research before ever giving someone any of your private and financial information. If it sounds too good to be true or seems a little sketchy, it most likely is just that.

If you receive an email that seems fishy, and it asks you to click on a link. Don’t. Type the website into a search bar and look for the customer service call or email them a copy of your email. You may find that it is fraudulent, in which case the customer service team will let you know.

So now that we’ve gone over two ways in which your personal information can be stolen, let’s talk about protecting yourself.

How to Proactively Protect Yourself in the Digital Age

The chances are high that your information has been involved in a data breach before but — before you panic — most people have been. Just as you’ve probably gotten an email about some absurd relative dying in a country you’ve never been and left their estate to you- you just need to send money to receive said money that said dead relative left.

Or my personal favorite, my car warranty has gone out and I should call now to extend it. With that being said, this makes it increasingly important that people understand how to better guard themselves against digital attacks.

There are steps that you can take to make sure minimal — if any — damage is done.

Below are just a few simple and frugal ways to protect yourself

Never give out your social security number or financial information unless you are sure — beyond a shadow of a doubt — that it’s needed. It is better to be safe than sorry in this context.

Never give out passwords and choose passwords that are of a complex nature. Passwords should be unique and hard for someone that isn’t you to guess.

My techy husband says you should have some sort of algorithm in place for your passwords. This would make them unique to each and every website, while still following the same theme, making it easy for you to remember. -It also makes the passwords like 20+ characters long (or so it feels like).

Set up authenticators that ask for more than just a password to verify your identity on your account — such as your email address, mobile phone, or both. This way if your account notices that someone is trying to log in from a strange device they will contact you for verification.

Turn account alerts on to better track fraudulent activities in your accounts. By turning on account alerts, you can be notified of transactions, withdrawals, and even when and where your account has been accessed. 

Monitor your credit reports for any unusual activity that was not done by yourself. Report any activity such as newly opened accounts or delinquent accounts that you did not expressly approve or create.

If you are still concerned about better protecting your information there are a variety of software and apps that can help you such as LifeLock, Identity Force, and ID Patrol. Most antivirus programs generally offer similar types of these services to better guard your online information and detect threats. These services are usually offered at varying prices from monthly to yearly subscriptions.

The Future of Money and Technology

While it’s uncertain how technology will continue to evolve and shape our everyday lives, there is one certainty — technology is here to stay. It will continue to revolutionize how we view things, the way we do things, and also the way in which we pay for things all while providing convenience at a touch, click, or swipe.

Digital attacks will still be of concern but it is very important to remember the ways that you can proactively guard yourself against them. By practicing each of those steps the worry and fear of being a victim of such an attack will significantly dwindle, allowing you to be more comfortable knowing that your money and information are better guarded.

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