Lock It Down Before You Shop: Guarding Your Identity Is Critical

Most shoppers don’t think twice before swiping a credit or debit card or clicking “submit” online. Exercise caution with your personal data and take advantage of tools that help protect your data. 

The bad news: In recent years, hacks of online databases have given way to massive thefts of personal information, and millions of Americans have been affected by attacks on government and private computer systems. With Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses and other personal information exposed, the risks for consumers are greater than ever. 

“There is clear and present and growing danger,” says Gary McAlum, USAA’s chief security officer. “More and more, personally identifiable information has become readily available to hackers at a very low cost and through legitimate open source search services. Cybercriminals have become more sophisticated in gaining data — through data breaches, automated phone calls, email phishing and social media scams.” 

The good news:  As the threats become more sophisticated, so do the tools to help you defend against them.   

At USAA, legacy security models — traditional username and password, along with static information like mother’s maiden name — are giving way to more dynamic, stronger security tools, such as Multifactor Authentication (MFA). 

MFA is simply using two or more measures to confirm your identity. This comes from a combination of something you are (fingerprint or voice), know (password or pin) or have (phone or code).  

This extra layer of protection reduces your risk to fraud and is user friendly. Members already use MFA on the USAA Mobile App when they authenticate with their biometric or pin. Once enrolled in MFA, members will provide a one-time code when you call or visit usaa.com. This one-time code is available through the USAA Mobile App or may be received via email or text. Members also should use their “chip” credit and debit cards wherever businesses accept them, since chip technology is more secure than old “swiping” magnetic strip cards.  

“All consumers are susceptible to fraud, so we need the help of our members to stay vigilant,” says Tom Shaw, USAA’s vice president financial crimes management. “This includes reviewing your accounts, leveraging malware protection software and being suspicious of emails asking for your personal information.” 

Even with all the recent large-scale cyberattacks, McAlum says web and mobile phone banking remain extremely safe when used with the proper security tools. 

“I feel safe even when the cybersharks are swimming around me,” he says. “I’m very, very comfortable. It’s about risk management and being security-conscious.”  

 Learn more fraud prevention tips at  USAA’s Security Center.  


Not all security features may be available for your device.  

Safety guidelines are not intended to be all inclusive, but are provided for your consideration. Please use your own judgment to determine what safety features/procedures should be used in each unique situation. 

 Use of the term “member” or “membership” refers to membership in USAA Membership Services and does not convey any legal or ownership rights in USAA. Restrictions apply and are subject to change. 

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