Chris Lewis

Apr 25 2018

Identity Theft Series: Protect Yourself Online


Identity theft is a serious crime that can cost you time, money, lost job opportunities, and credit standing. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) an estimated 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. (source:

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information like name, social security number, or financial account information which is gained online or through stealing your personal documents. Awareness is your best weapon against many forms of identity theft. Hills Bank wants to help you protect your good name by sharing ways to make it more difficult for thieves to steal your identity.

  1. Don’t respond to emails requesting personal information. Email is not a secure way to provide sensitive information like account numbers, passwords, social security numbers, etc. If you think a business legitimately needs your personal information, call them from the number in the phone book or on their website, and not from a number provided via email. As a reminder, Hills Bank will never email or call and ask for your personal information.
  2. Use strong passwords. Use a password that has a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters that would be difficult to guess. Passphrases (which are a series of words that create a phrase) of characters and special characters provide additional security when creating passwords. Remember to change your password frequently (approximately every 90 days) and never share your password with anyone. You should never store your password on your computer, but if you need to write it down, store it in a secure and private place.
  3. Use WiFi connections with caution. Wireless networks usually don’t provide the same level of security as a wired connection, especially in public places like airports, hotels, and hotspots, in order to make it easier to access the network. Unless it’s absolutely necessary, it’s probably best to avoid checking financial account information through an unsecured WiFi connection.
  4. Internet browser security. Never allow browsers to remember your username and password. When finished, be sure to logout completely to terminate your online session. If you are using a computer other than your own, clear out the browser history and delete the temporary files and history after logging out of your accounts. You can double check https websites by verifying the padlock icon on the status bar to view the security ticket for the site. In the “Issued to” popup window, the name should match the site you think you are on. If it doesn’t match up, you could be on a spoofed site.
  5. Social networking security. Stay safe on social networking sites and never include anything that would expose you to thieves. This includes personal and business names, addresses, phone numbers, job titles, birth dates, schedule details, daily routines, and whether or not you are home or on vacation. Many times thieves have the answers to break into your financial accounts by clicking on the “Forgot Password” link because they can guess your mother’s maiden name, your hometown, high school mascot, etc. because this information can be found on your social networking site.
  6. Monitor your accounts. Hills Bank makes it easy to monitor your accounts with online banking. You can even have alerts sent to you when there is activity in your account. Wouldn’t it be better to get a text message or email within minutes of a withdrawal on your account to ensure you actually made the transaction rather than waiting to discover fraud up to a month later on your account statement? You should also monitor your credit report by visiting In accordance with the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act), you are allowed one free credit report per year. Take advantage of these services.

For more information on arming yourself with knowledge against ID theft, please visit’s Customer Protection Center. It’s a great resource that provides information on ID theft and how to prevent it, and what steps to take in case you become a victim.

What tools or tips do you use to monitor your accounts? Let us know.

View the complete Identity Theft Series:

Chris Lewis

About Chris Lewis

Chris Lewis is an Information Security Officer at Hills Bank. He joined Hills Bank in 2013 and has over 10 years banking experience. He specializes in Cybersecurity, Fraud & Identify Theft Prevention, and mobile device security. Chris can be reached at

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