Tips & Advice

How much private information is your financial institution sharing?

Larry Larsen, Director of Cyber Security

Over the years, I’ve written a lot of articles on cyber security, and security in general, for several publications including The Educator newsletter.  At the core of all these, regardless of the specific subjects, is one fundamental concept that concerns every reader in every magazine: PRIVACY.

We’ve all seen the stories in the news recently about data breaches at retail stores, credit bureaus, and even the U.S. Government — placing your privacy and security at risk. As a result, I’ve received a lot of questions from members and employees about how we handle personal data. 

Financial institutions must share certain personal information in order to conduct daily business, including transaction processing, account maintenance, and in some cases responding to credit inquiries and court orders.  And yes, at Apple FCU we share some information for marketing purposes both within Apple and with our business affiliates.  However, we DON’T sell any of your information to the general marketing and sales industry and we’ll NEVER SHARE your Social Security Number.

Unless it’s required by law or to conduct business, you can opt out of most of these sharing efforts.  Our website at www.applefcu.org includes a Fact Sheet on what Apple Federal Credit Union does with your personal information, and has instructions on how to opt out if you want.

It’s a lot more challenging to manage your privacy and personal information on the Internet and in other marketing environments.  There are many companies who make their money by collecting and reselling personal information to anyone who wants to pay for it, whether it’s a company or just a bad guy with a credit card number.

Phone numbers, for example, are purchased in bulk both by legitimate marketing firms for use in cold-calling sales, political and charity campaigns, but are also available for individual persons to anyone for around $20 each, along with the home address, and in some cases, an address history and suggested family members.

I’m not making you feel any better, am I?

My point with all this is not to frighten you, but to inform you as to the extent of the situation so you can be proactive about defending your and your family’s privacy on the Internet.  

In previous columns, I’ve mentioned the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website, and once again, they have some great information on how to protect your personal information.  Their Privacy, Identity & Online Security section can help you with general online security, protecting your children online, identity theft protection and response, and reducing unwanted emails and phone calls. In addition, our Apple FCU website also has an extensive Fraud Prevention section complete with videos, quizzes and even a web chat for fraud protection questions.

As with everything else in today’s interconnected world, staying on top of threats and managing your cyber life is the best defense against threats to your private information.