Florence Bank Offers Tips to Guard Against Cybersecurity

 In Client Press Releases

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

FLORENCE—There are no hold-ups in online crime. No mask over the face, no weapons. Often, there is also no one to hold accountable. “People who commit online fraud remain anonymous. They are hard to identify,” said Kurt Shouse, the information and cybersecurity officer at Florence Bank. 

Cybercrime—and related cons, such as phone scams and fraud committed via cell phones and tablets—is escalating every year; fraud cost the world $600 billion in 2017. Shouse said to help combat these fraudulent sneak attacks, people must stay informed and focus on prevention. 

To help with education, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is offered every October. It’s a collaboration between government entities and industry with a goal of informing Americans about online scams so they can learn how to prevent them. In honor of that effort, Florence Bank offer’s tips and advice from Shouse.

In general, to prevent cybercrime, Shouse suggests the following: 

  • Keep antivirus software and other technology up to date.
  • Never give out your user names or passwords to your online accounts.
  • Back up the files on your computer.
  • Always check the URLs in your browser to be sure you are on the site you intended. 

“Cybersecurity has to be top-of-mind for everybody,” said Shouse, who is charged with overseeing cybersecurity for the bank and its customers. “If you’re online, you’re susceptible to some type of fraud, regardless if you’re 10 or 90. Cybersecurity is not a hobby. It’s a multi-billion-dollar business.”

Tugging the heart strings

Shouse said many email scams take advantage of peoples’ vulnerabilities. “Be wary when you receive an email from someone claiming to be a victim of a wide-spread, well-known tragedy—such as the Boston Marathon bombing or a mass shooting,” he said. 

Some scammers are creating fundraising sites, Shouse added. “They send emails out to millions, claiming to have been affected and are seeking support through donations. “Often, they have nothing to do with the cause,” he said. 

Shouse suggests using Google to search the cause to verify its legitimacy. “If any doubt exists, delete the communication, and do not respond,” he said. “Make a donation to an organization you know and trust by contacting them directly.”

Phone scams are also common, across the country and locally. Seniors are often targeted, and the caller will claim to have information about someone in your family, Shouse said. “They might tell you your grandson is in jail and that you need to send money as soon as possible to get him out. They may even have his name,” he said. 

They may ask for your banking account or credit card information, or they may ask for your social security number. “Do not offer this information. Hang up or delete the email,” Shouse said.

Phishing out of water

There are hundreds of different phishing scams. A phishing email in particular can ransack your computer once you open an attachment or take any kind of action. More often than not, if you’re a victim of one of these scams, your computer will be infected with a virus that is disabling. 

Additionally, another immobilizing scam occurs when a fraudster inserts a device into your files that monitors your online activity and keystrokes. This scam is dangerous because over time your frequently visited sites will become apparent along with your user names and passwords.

Shouse recommends that your spam filter is always turned on, and to avoid all emails from individuals or organizations you do not know. He said to ask yourself these questions: “Are you expecting the email? How does the body of the email look? Does it look odd? Are there spelling mistakes?”

He adds, “When in doubt, delete it out.”

Shouse said there are also scams that will divert you to a site that looks exactly like your own bank’s site. It will prompt you to enter your user name and password, and, when you do, the scammer will have access to your account information and access to your funds. He recommends when entering your bank’s website that you pay attention to the URL that appears in the search on your computer, tablet, or smartphone.

“Fraudsters are known to mirror your own bank’s site,” Shouse said. 

To make sure you are on your own banking site, “Look in the browser and make sure the URL is the correct one for your bank, ‘FlorenceBank.com,’ for instance. Make sure the URL is not random, such as a string of numbers,” Shouse said.

Cyberattacks on children occur all the time when they are playing games on a parent’s phone or tablet. “The biggest misconception people hold is that they are safe on their phones,” Shouse said. “You have to be very careful when you are downloading apps.”

Only download apps from the App store on your device or from the site of the product manufacturer. He said, “Fraudsters are building fake apps that might look like a bank app. Once you enter your information, they gain access.”

Florence Bank has branches in Amherst, Belchertown, Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, Northampton, Williamsburg, West Springfield, and Springfield, and it is headquartered in Florence. 

Florence Bank is a mutually-owned savings bank chartered in 1873. Currently, the bank serves the Pioneer Valley through 11 full-service branch locations in Florence, Northampton, Easthampton, Williamsburg, Amherst, Hadley, Belchertown, Granby, West Springfield and a new branch located on Allen Street in Springfield. Additionally, they offer 27 ATMs and a wide range of financial services including investment management through FSB Financial Group (FSBFG) to consumers and businesses.  Florence Bank is consistently voted best local bank by the readers of the Valley Advocate and the Daily Hampshire Gazette.  

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