We hear daily news stories about the latest hacking attempts to mine the companies and network systems designed to keep our personal and financial data safe from cyber-thieves. The consumer convenience of using our debit and credit cards, online banking and paying with our smartphones only adds to our vulnerability.

In search of prey

Criminals who have access to your personal information can withdraw funds out of your bank or other financial accounts, purchase items online or in store or take over your financial identity completely. Credit and debit card fraud cost consumers around the world a staggering $5.5 billion a year. Each year, an estimated 13.5 percent of U.S. consumers (30.2 million people) are defrauded, losing a total of close to $3 billion.

"No matter your age, if you have money—no matter how small or large the amount—you can be sure a thief is waiting to scam you or hack into your finances."

With the click of several keystrokes, cybercriminals are poised to accumulate debt and commit crimes using your good name. Other criminals are prowling daily for the perfect financial prey. Often when we think of financial fraud we picture a vulnerable, elderly lady pressured into a scam that sounds “too good to be true.”

Who’s at risk?

While this scenario does occur, research has shown the elderly are not the only target. No matter your age, if you have money—no matter how small or large the amount—you can be sure a thief is waiting to scam you or hack into your finances. When one of us becomes a victim of an identity thief or a financial scheme, it can take hundreds of hours and dollars to try to recover from the loss, restore credit scores and prevent further financial troubles.

Fortunately, we all have within ourselves the power to fight back through prevention. It’s up to each of us to learn the best way to protect ourselves, and our families, from becoming victims of identity theft and other financial fraud. Guided by a growing body of research, we are learning how to spot the red flags of fraud, identifying who thieves target most often, and establishing network systems that tighten the security grip around our financial data.

5 Security Habits to Help You Stay Vigilant

Cybersecurity threats seem to lurk around every digital highway we traverse. By keeping these safety practices in mind, we each can reduce the chances of being snared in a hacker’s web if we take the time to protect and preserve our personal information.

1. Credit counts

Monitor your credit card and bank accounts. Watch for suspicious or unrecognized transactions.

2. Power in numbers

Guard against identity theft by never giving out your Social Security number.

3. Change the locks

Protect your passwords. Create unique passwords using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols.

4. No shortcuts

Do not save passwords when prompted online and do not write down your passwords to carry them with you.

5. Click smart

Never click on—or provide financial information to—unfamiliar or unusual emails and links.