Online safety experts agree that financial transactions over the Internet are safer than ever before. With that said, it is up to you to make sure your online banking is as safe as it can be. Here are some things you can do to increase security and be smart when you're banking online.
Protect Your Login Information
No matter who asks for it, never give your login or password information to anyone. Your bank will not ask for your password, but online scammers will make it look like they are affiliated with the bank so they can nab your information and get into your accounts. Avoid giving your login info to friends or family as well. Even though they may be trustworthy, there is always a chance that the information will be inadvertently shared if you don't have direct control of it.
Never Click on Links in Emails
Online crooks have become very clever at tricking people into giving away personal information. It is not too difficult for a hacker to swipe a bank's logo and recreate an authentic-looking email. The email might include links that look like they are pointed to your bank's website. If you feel you need to follow up on something that was emailed to you from your bank, always go to your browser and visit your bank's site from a bookmark or type in the URL. Going directly to the site on your own will protect you from being redirected to a fake site designed to steal your information.
Avoid Using Your Social Security Number for Passwords
Your social security number is a ticket to all of your personal accounts. Never use a full or partial social security number as a login ID or as a password. Crooks who have sophisticated software can figure out your social security number from as few as four digits in some cases. Keeping that number protected is an important part of keeping your finances secure.
Consider Big Banks for Better Security
Larger banks have better resources for developing online security. Banks that operate nationwide, like Bank of America and Citibank, have the most updated security online. If you plan to do quite a lot of your banking through the Internet, you might consider switching to a larger institution for safety reasons.
Shy Away From Public Computers
Do all of your online banking from a single, private computer. Public computers hold on to information long after you have walked away from them, putting all of your personal details at risk. You should also avoid using a public Wi-Fi connection for banking transactions because an unsecured Wi-Fi signal offers very little security.
Limit Smartphone Use for Banking
Smartphones are small computers with Wi-Fi connections. The trouble is that smartphone apps are poorly protected compared to computer programs because most of them don't have virus protection or other firewall safeguards. If you must do banking transactions from your phone, do them rarely and make sure you log out completely when the transaction is ended.
Check Your Account for Unusual Activity
Keep an eye on your bank account. The nice thing about online banking is that you have access to it all day, every day. Log in at least every other day to make sure your digital balances agree with what you think they should be. Catching any unusual activity as early as possible is an important part of recovering potential losses and limiting access after a breach.
Change Your Password Regularly
Computer networking experts recommend you change your password once every three months. Using the same password for years makes you more vulnerable to hackers because they have all the time they need to try to figure out what your password is. Make sure you use a secure password that includes letters, numbers and symbols so it is more difficult for someone to hack into your account.
Keep Your System Updated
Regular operating system updates keep your computer as secure as possible. These updates usually include new security patches to fix recently discovered problems. If you don't update your computer system, you will be vulnerable to the latest security breaches. You should also make sure your antivirus software is updated regularly as well.
Respond Quickly if You Suspect a Problem
If you notice anything suspicious, take action right away. Your bank will have a better chance of tracking down the person who hacked into your account if it is aware of the problem quickly. Notify the bank right away so it can freeze your accounts. Your quick action will protect the remaining assets and minimize the damage.
Jessica Bosari is a freelance writer and blogger for various publications and her own blog. You can read more of Jessica's work here. If you have any comments or questions about SavingTools or about saving money, leave your comments in the form below or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!