In today's highly connected world, protecting your information has never been more important. In 2017 alone, more than 15 million people were fraud victims, two million more victims than in 2016. The resulting losses totaled $31.3 billion during that time span.

Identity fraud isn't a new problem, but the tactics criminals use to obtain sensitive information is constantly evolving. It can be hard to keep up with the latest tactics scammers use to collect personally identifying information (PII).

Here's what you can do to avoid scams and protect yourself:

1. Don't trust public WiFi with your personal information

Criminals can intercept information like card numbers, passwords and the answers to security questions through your WiFi connection. It’s easy for anyone to find an online tutorial explaining how to hack a public WiFi network; some have been viewed millions of times.

If you absolutely must use a public WiFi source, stick to HTTPS. Websites that start with HTTPS are secure, that’s what the “S” stands for, so when you’re passing your information through these sites, people sharing the public WiFi can’t access your data. If you’re using Google Chrome, the browser will recognize when you’re on an HTTP site and will notify you that you’re about to enter or engage with a site or app that is “not secure”. It would be wise to listen and either go to the site securely or on a private network that you trust.

2. Don't respond to suspicious texts or emails

You may have heard of phishing scams, but have you heard of smishing?

Phishing scams use legitimate-looking emails that encourage the reader to click a link or respond with sensitive information. If you get an unexpected email from someone you know, or an odd-looking email from someone you don't, think twice before opening it.

Similarly, smishing scams are carried out with text messages, a medium that many consumers inherently trust. If you get a suspicious text, don't reply. Doing so confirms that your number is legitimate, and you may be targeted with new scams.

Some common smishing messages include:

  • A bank asking you to confirm your PIN
  • A contest saying you won, and that your information is needed to claim the prize
  • A company asking you to click a line

3. Check your mail every day

Mail fraud is a real concern, especially around tax season and the holidays. During the holidays, people often mail gift cards, cash and presents to friends and family. Meanwhile, tax season brings enticing tax refunds to mailboxes around the country. Understanding this, thieves are especially active in targeting mailboxes during these times so it's important to always bring in your mail.

That is not to say that you should only be diligent during certain times of the year; mail theft occurs year-round. If a criminal swipes your credit card statement, he or she may be able to get your account information.

If you plan to be out of town, enlist a trusted friend or family member to collect your mail for you. Or, arrange for mail holding with your local post office.

Keeping your information secure is important for your financial future. Would you like to learn more about what you can do to protect your finances? Visit our security center to learn more.