A Lesson Learned Is A Lesson Shared

I want to share something with you all today because it’s really important. I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but recently I fell for one of those “phishing” scams. I was here at work and during lunch I was checking my personal email. To my surprise I received an email that looked exactly like something my bank would send me. The message indicated my account was overdrawn, which I thought was very strange as I had only been paid a few days earlier. So I clicked on the link and entered in my login info.

Almost immediately, I felt as if something was not quite right, so I closed the browser window and pulled out my bank debit card. I called the number on the back to talk to a representative. As what often happens, I had to wait a few minutes until I got a person. Would you believe during that wait, someone actually tried to get into my account? Fortunately it was detected as fraud and blocked.  The representative was so sweet and she helped me resolve the issue and the process of changing my login information.

The reason I’m sharing this with you all today is for two reasons: first, to show you that anyone – absolutely anyone – can be duped by a clever scam. I have always prided myself with being able to recognize a fake email, but this one caught me easily.

The second reason is to talk about password security. During the call with the bank representative, she reminded me that it’s important to change passwords regularly to protect ourselves from what we here at NCP call the “Bad actors.”

Now I’ll admit, I’ve been bad with some of my own personal passwords. I’ve been known to use family names and dates. I’ve even used the same password for several different logins for sake of convenience.

Honestly, all that is just asking for trouble.

Last year, NCP strengthened a number of our security policies, including asking all of our panel members to change their passwords. As part of the update process, panel member passwords had to:

  • be different from your old password
  • be a minimum of 8 characters long (maximum of 64 characters)
  • include at least one number: 0-9
  • include at least one letter: a-z
  • include at least one special character listed here: !@#$%^&*._-

Admittedly, many of our panel members weren’t thrilled with this change. But we are committed to ensuring the personal info you share with us stays safe.

After my “adventure” I did a little research and also talked to the team here at NCP. Most security experts recommend changing your passwords at least every six months. And unlike me, they do not recommend using family names or birthdays or something else familiar. They also warn against using the same password in multiple websites.

Now, you might be thinking “Come on Taylor, I use my dog’s name. They’ll never guess that!” But guess what – if you post something about your dog on Facebook, they can get that info. These bad actors are serious about what they do.

Another tip – when it comes to security questions to recover your passwords or access to an account, don’t use real facts. Like if the question is “what is your favorite color” and your favorite color is blue, choose pink! Seriously. Then write that info down somewhere in your home.

If it’s been a while, take some time today to change your email and NCP Panel member passwords. Then make a schedule to update your other passwords every couple of months.

Be vigilant. It’s the best way to keep your data safe and secure! I learned that lesson well.

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the Fourth of July holiday!

FYI: The Panel Support Center will be closed on Wednesday for the holiday.

Making Father’s Day Special

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and this year I’m lucky enough to have both my father and mother up from Florida. As I’ve written in the past, dad’s favorite Father’s Day gift is going to a baseball game, so I thought we’d take advantage of his being in New York to see a game at Yankees Stadium. The Yanks are playing his (new) hometown team, the Tampa Bay Rays.

Lots of other people will be spending time (and money) on an activity with the dad’s in their lives. According to the National Retail Federation, 47% of consumers plan on giving a gift of a special outing, such as a concert, sporting event or dinner. Overall spending on these outings is expected to reach $3.2 billion this year!

Overall, Father’s Day spending is expected to total a near-record $15.3 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation. The organization says about 77% of Americans will celebrate Father’s Day and spend an average of $133 per person.

Other than going to a ball game, there are lots of fun ways to spend Father’s Day include, according to  familyeducation.com, such as

  • Play golf or mini golf
  • Go bowling
  • Go fishing
  • Play catch
  • Visit a historic site
  • Go for a bike ride or hike
  • Build something

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you have a very happy Father’s Day!