October is “Cybersecurity Awareness Month.” And for good reason.

Every year, cybercriminals develop even more sophisticated techniques.

That’s why you need to protect yourself and your family against fraud, because thieves could be lurking on the other end of a phone call or an email.

They want to trick you or a loved one into giving them access to your bank account and personal information. Sure, they want to steal your money, but they could also use your identity to commit other crimes that will create nightmares for you for years to come.

Remember these basics:

“A bank will never ask you for your account number, Social Security number, name, address or online banking password by sending you a text message or email,” said Jennifer Wyatt, an information security officer at First Community Bank. “In addition, we will not ask for your credit or debit card number, pin number or CVV number for those cards.”

If you receive a phone call, text or email requesting such information from someone who says they are with your bank, Ms. Wyatt urges you to contact your bank directly.

“Hang up and call the number on the back of your card or the customer service number on your bank’s website,” she said. “The only time your bank will share this information is if you call the bank directly, and your identity is verified.”

And, with the holiday season approaching, Ms. Wyatt said we all need to be extra cautious of unexpected calls, texts and emails asking for our personal information.

“You need to be aware of something called romance scams,” she said, “which increase during the holiday season.”

A romance scam is when a person is tricked into believing they are in a romantic relationship with someone they met online. In fact, their “other half” is a cybercriminal using a fake identity to gain enough of their victim’s trust to ask – or blackmail – them for money.

Don’t dismiss the notion that you or someone you know could ever fall victim to such a scheme.

The FBI says romance scams are one of the most profitable cybercrimes – for thieves, that is.

Reports of online romance scams have nearly tripled in recent years; the Federal Trade Commission says victims lose more than $200 million annually to “cyber sweethearts.”

Overall, incidents of cybercrime in the U.S. generated nearly 792,000 complaints last year, with victims swindled out of $4.2 billion, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report.

Scammers launch thousands of cyberattacks every day, and they are often successful.

As we do more of our shopping and other activities online, the opportunities for scammers multiply.

Experts suggest your own common sense is the first line of defense against online or phone fraud. Stop and think before you do anything.

For more guidance on protecting yourself and your family, visit the Federal Trade Commission web page, “How to Avoid a Scam” at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-avoid-scam.

Chuck Jones is an Adventure First Travel Club representative for First Community Bank. He can be reached at chuck.jones@firstcommunity.net or at (870) 612-3400.

Chuck Jones is an Adventure First Travel Club representative for First Community Bank. He can be reached at chuck.jones@firstcommunity.net or at (870) 612-3400.

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