HOW DO I BANK SAFELY ONLINE?

12 March 5 MINS READ
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Managing money has never been easier, thanks to online banking. We no longer need to go to the bank to transfer dollars or wait for the next paper statement to find out how much money we have. We can now get access to all of this information at the drop of a hat. However, while online banking has made our lives easier, it has also made it easier for thieves.

Instead of robbing a bank, a thief can use just a few keystrokes to steal your money. But don't worry, if you choose the right bank and take some precautions, online banking can be safe.

In this article, we'll take you through 8 steps you should take to bank safely online because the last thing we want is some hacker stealing your hard-earned cash.

8 STEPS TO BANK SAFELY ONLINE

1. Don't Do Banking on Public Wi-Fi

Public wi-fi connections are convenient when you need to stay connected on the go but they are often not secure. Hackers will have an easier time accessing your computer and stealing personal information, like the hacker who is secretly recording your keystrokes. It's known as "keylogging" and it's real.

Keylogging is just one of the ways hackers can gain access to your account while using public Wi-Fi. Because you can't anticipate every situation, avoid completing online banking when you're out in public. Unless you're on a secure Wi-Fi network with a password or using your cell phone data connection, you should never access your bank's website using a computer, tablet, or mobile phone. You can also double-check for web page encryption by ensuring that the browser's address begins with "https." The "s" indicates that the page is encrypted, hence secure.

2. Use Strong Passwords and Change Them Regularly

This may seem like common sense, but your password choice can provide an opening for hackers. Passwords with a mix of upper and lowercase letters, digits, and special characters are considered strong. Words, especially those associated with your persona, such as your mother's maiden name, the street where you reside, or the name of your pet, are far too easy to guess. Also, frequent sequences like "1234" should be avoided. The longer and more complicated a password is, the more difficult it is to crack and the more likely it is to protect you from hackers.

Every few months, you should also change your password. We understand it's a hassle to change your passwords regularly. Who has the time to remember all of the different passwords you use for each online account? It really might be tempting to use the same password across all of your accounts, but that's like flashing a bunch of $100 notes at a hacker. The problem is that once they figure out your preferred password (and its variations), they have complete access to your account. As a result, you should use different passwords for all of your online accounts to make it more difficult for hackers to access your data. Consider using a password manager to store and safeguard your passwords, which will make it easier to use those longer and more complex passwords.

3. Don't Save Your Login Information

Some websites allow you to retain your login information for later use, but if someone else uses your computer or mobile device after you, they may be able to access your bank accounts. Many banking sites now time out after a specific number of minutes of inactivity and do not save your information to help prevent this from happening.

4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication Whenever Possible

Many banks are now offering two-factor authentication as the next level of protection to help you safeguard your online banking information.

When you log in online, you usually provide your bank with your phone number, and it texts you a code. You can also request a code via email or phone call from some banks. To log in, you must enter this code in addition to your password. This way, even if your password is compromised, no one can access your accounts. Check with your bank to see if multi-factor authentication is an option. If it is, you may only need to download a free authenticator app to get started.

5. Keep Your Devices Updated

Computers and mobile devices that are more than ten years old may not be safe enough to protect your personal and financial information from the latest computer viruses.  If your computer is infected with a virus, a hacker could get access to your bank accounts without you knowing until your money is gone. Always apply suggested updates to your computer as soon as they become available, and make sure you have antivirus software installed.

6. Always Type The Web Address Of Your Bank Into Your Browser Yourself

Hackers send "phishing" emails that look like they're from your bank with the hope that you'll use their false version of the bank's website to submit your login details. Even if they appear to be from your bank, never click on these links in emails. Instead, manually type the bank's online address into the URL box or use a search engine to locate the appropriate web page. You can save the correct page for later use by bookmarking it.

7. Keep A Close Eye On Your Account

Check your account balances and transaction history regularly to ensure that your money isn't going anywhere it shouldn't. Even though banks are quite skilled at detecting fraud, particularly with credit cards, they may not always be able to spot every questionable transaction among all customers, so make sure to verify your statement monthly. If you observe any strange activity, reset your account password as soon as possible and inform your bank.

8. Choose Wisely When Downloading Financial Apps

Financial apps, especially mobile banking apps, can help you with everything from banking to bill payment to money transfer to shopping. In the security department, however, they are not all created equal. The first step in using mobile applications to bank is to make sure you're using your bank's official app. The second step is to be cautious about who you allow access to your online and mobile banking information.

You might consider employing a Robo-advisor or a budgeting tool to handle your finances. These apps may ask for your online banking login credentials so that they can pull data to generate your financial picture. If these additional apps aren't secure, your information might be put at risk. Furthermore, doing so may violate your bank's terms of service. Always, check the ratings before downloading financial apps from the app store. Then, do some research into the app developer's security standards and whether it has a track record of data leaks.

BOTTOM LINE

Online banking allows you complete control over your finances at the touch of a button, but there are security risks as with anything else online. That shouldn't stop you from using online and mobile banking, but it does imply you should be careful about how you go about doing so. It's your money on the line, and once it's gone, you might not be able to get it back. That's why the steps above can come in handy. Take precautions to protect your accounts and ensure that your bank employs industry-standard security technology. This way, you take advantage of the benefits of internet banking while keeping your accounts secure. If you see anything unusual on your account, or if you make an unintentional payment to the wrong account, contact your bank right once.

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