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At its most fundamental level, personal cyber-security for individuals and families covers a broad range of protections and controls, including device security, sound security behaviors, and proactive measures against fraud.

Learn more about steps to secure your assets, your family and yourself from cyber-attacks and common scams by reviewing the materials below.



Identity theft is the practice of using one or more personal pieces of information to falsify or steal one's identity. Identity theft usually involves the taking of unique, personal information such as:

  1. Social Security Number
  2. Bank account or credit card number
  3. Telephone calling card number

In the worst cases, entire identities can be taken, enabling the criminals to run up large debts and commit crimes while using the victim’s identity. In these cases, the victim faces not just the initial loss of funds, but additional hassle and financial costs associated with trying to restore his or her reputation in the community and correcting erroneous information for which the criminal is responsible.

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

  • Create an alternate username to use in place of your Social Security number whenever possible
  • Review financial statements as they arrive for unauthorized transactions or changes
  • Review your credit report regularly
  • Shred all documents containing personal information
  • Know what to do if you suspect you have become a victim of identity theft
  • Be vocal - urge merchants and financial institutions that don't use secure practices to do so



Online fraud, also known as Internet fraud, generally refers to any type of fraud scheme that uses online services; such as chat rooms, e-mail, message boards, or web sites, to commit crimes. According to the FBI, the most common types of online fraud involve financial crimes such as auction or retail fraud, Securities fraud, and Identity Theft.  

Online fraud often occurs via e-mail, in the form of Spoofing and Phishing. Spoofing and Phishing both represent e-mail scams in which fraudsters send consumers e-mail messages that appear to come from legitimate financial institutions. Consumers are directed to what appears to be authentic bank web sites. Typically, individuals are then asked to type in their personal and account information to "verify" it with the bank.

Northern Trust will never ask you to provide, verify or update personal or account information via e-mail or an unsecured Internet web site. If you receive such a request, do not provide any information. Contact Northern Trust to report these instances as soon as possible.

How to Protect Yourself from Phishing Scams:

  • In addition to using a personal firewall, install anti-virus and anti-spyware programs and update them regularly
  • Never send personal or financial information via e-mail
  • Review credit card and bank account statements as soon as you receive them to check for unauthorized charges
  • Be cautious about opening any attachment or downloading any files from e-mails you receive, regardless of who sent them



Social Engineering is a term used to describe a collection of techniques used to manipulate people into divulging confidential information.  Social Engineers target humans – and often portray themselves as people in need of your help or people of authority in order to gain access to information they are not authorized to receive.

Social Engineering can occur via computers, phone calls, text messages, and even in-person. Protecting yourself against Social Engineering attacks is easier if you know the signs to watch for.

Types of Social Engineering Attacks:

  • Spoofed Websites
  • Social Media Fraud
  • Phishing/Spear Phishing
  • Smishing (fraud perpetrated through text messages)
  • Telephone Fraud

Remember, Social Engineers are clever and confident and seldom make mistakes.  They will appear to know just enough facts to SEEM legitimate, but are actually attempting to gain information for illicit purposes. To help reduce your risk of becoming a victim of Social Engineers:

  1. Always know with whom you are sharing your personal information;
  2. Discard your personal physical information securely;
  3. Ask questions and verify the information before you release any personal or financial information;
  4. Maintain appropriate security on your computers and mobile devices (anti-virus, anti-spyware, passwords, and personal firewalls);
  5. Beware of suspicious calls, e-mails, and general solicitations asking for money; do not wire money in response to a solicitation. 



Ten simple steps you can take to reduce your risk.

  1. Install up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs on your home computers.
  2. Use a personal firewall.
  3. Download security patches and software/operating system updates in a timely fashion.
  4. Use caution when using unsecure Wireless Hotspots, such as internet cafes or airports.
  5. Enable security features on your home wireless network and use a strong password or key to prevent unwanted access.
  6. Use strong passwords and keep them safe if you must write them down.
  7. Learn to identify and avoid Phishing and Spear Phishing e-mails.
  8. Review your financial statements as soon as they arrive for discrepancies or suspicious activity.
  9. Shred all documents with personal or financial information before disposal.
  10. Use care when participating in Social Networking sites, such as Facebook or LinkedIn. Do not reveal sensitive personal information, and modify your privacy settings to prevent strangers from viewing your pages. 



Read more on the latest Scam Alerts


Cyber Crime Awareness

Email Security Tips for Work and Home

Post-Data Breach


Extra caution is needed as uncertainty, remote work and COVID-19 scams compromise the security of your personal information.