Steps organizations can take for a successful and secure charitable season

By Eric Spacek, assistant vice president – Risk Control, at Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I.

GivingTuesday was created 10 years ago to encourage people to do good. During this annual celebration the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Americans provide to nonprofits they believe in.
In 2021, the GivingTuesday Data Commons estimates 35 million adults participated in GivingTuesday, giving $2.7 billion. This year, Whole Whale estimates GivingTuesday will net $3.2 billion and surpass 2021’s record-breaking year.

The expected increase in giving is good news for churches. However, since more than 90% of larger churches accept online giving, cyber-theft becomes a risk.

Eric Spacek, assistant vice president – Risk Control at Church Mutual Insurance Company, S.I. (a stock insurer)1, offers ways to keep your congregation’s finances safe.

Cybersecurity can feel overwhelming, how can organizations remember it all?

Houses of worship and other nonprofits are prime targets for thieves who want to access members’ personal and financial information. Thankfully, if you can remember “CESA,” you’ve taken the first steps to cybersecurity.

  • Communication – How many of your members know all the methods people can use to give to your church? Frequently and repetitively communicating this can increase giving, and members will be more likely to identify a potential scam.
  • Education – Designate a point of contact for donations. Educate your members on how to spot fraudulent requests and to report them.
  • Smart – Keep up to date on the most common cybercrime tactics. Phishing (email) and smishing (text message) – sending what look like reputable messages to collect credit card or other personal information – remains among the top methods used by attackers. They prey on emotions to garner a response. Ransomware will hold your computer files for ransom, and you must pay the attacker to regain access to your information.
  • Action – Put cybersecurity measures into practice through existing tools and providers.

Are there easy action steps churches can take right away?

There are many ways houses of worship can fight back against cybercrime.

  • Password protection – Easy-to-guess passwords make it easier to hack your system. Do NOT use information that’s easy to find, like a birthday or address. Instead, use a series of words with symbols and numbers replacing letters.
  • Restrict access to your network – When an employee or volunteer leaves, immediately disable their access and change passwords. Only people who need to use the system should have access credentials.
  • Maintain network security – Require guests to ask for permission to use your network with a password. Set your network to lock out accounts after multiple unsuccessful attempts and use firewalls and encryption to restrict access to data.
  • Back up critical information – Ransomware can destroy your data. Regularly back up your data and keep the backup separate from your online data and files.

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