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How to get the convenience of online banking without the risk

1st March 2021 Print

There’s no doubt online banking is convenient. It allows instant access to your account information and history. Whether you want to check your credit card balance or the last transaction on your debit card, online banking makes it possible anywhere. 

That said, with this convenience comes even more risk. Every day, cybercriminals are trying to get access to your sensitive information. And with online banking, thieves don’t have to go out of their way to gain entrée. All they have to do is wait for you to let your guard down. Even something as simple as using public Wi-Fi could put you at risk. 

To keep your finances secure, you need to be careful. Here are five tips to help you do just that: 

1. Make Sure Your Passwords Are Strong

For years, experts have recommended consumers regularly change their passwords to make it harder for cybercriminals to gain access to sensitive information. This isn’t always necessary. While you shouldn’t keep the same banking password your entire life, the password you choose is more important than how often you switch it up. 

When choosing a password, it’s crucial you select one that’s not easy to guess. For example, don’t use your dog’s name or your husband’s birthday as your banking password. Make certain it isn’t something anyone who knows you could figure out.

Luckily, most passwords that access banking accounts, debit cards, and secured credit cards have to be at least 14 characters. They usually have to contain an uppercase letter, a lowercase letter, numbers, and special characters. These stipulations make it less likely that a consumer will pick a basic password, but the caution shouldn’t stop there. 

Make sure your passwords are unique. Don’t choose a banking password that’s the same as your email login or vice versa. If you do, and your email is hacked, that criminal will likely try to hack your bank account as well.

In addition to a password, consider setting up multi-factor authentication. With this method, you not only enter a password, but you have to pass an additional security test. That could be providing a code that’s texted to your phone or clicking on all the images with trees. However it’s done, multi-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security. 

2. Avoid Using Public Wi-Fi

Using public Wi-Fi while at a coffee shop might be convenient and save on data use, but it comes with security risks. The truth is, it’s all too easy for someone using the same Wi-Fi to gain access to your personal information. 

According to a Symantec study, over 60% of consumers think their information is safe whenever they use the public internet. That’s partly because only half of consumers think they’re the ones responsible for their own security. Seventeen percent believe websites are responsible, while another 17% think it’s the Wi-Fi provider’s job.

It’s important to understand you’re at risk anytime you use a shared network. Instead of using public Wi-Fi, employ a virtual private network (VPN). This method utilizes encryption to ensure your information is safe. 

If for some reason you can’t avoid using public Wi-Fi, avoid typing any sensitive information. For example, don’t online shop, check your bank account, etc. when on a public internet connection. 

3. Use Your Credit Card More Than Your Debit Card

Do you typically use your debit card when shopping online? You should change that. While using your debit card keeps you from spending beyond your means, credit cards offer more security. 

For one thing, if a cybercriminal gets a hold of your credit card, the money they steal is technically the card issuer’s. If a criminal gets a hold of your debit card, the money they steal is yours. See the difference? 

To protect yourself, avoid making online purchases with your debit card. Now, that doesn’t mean you should go crazy with your credit card. Make sure you’re staying on budget and constantly checking your statements for any sign of fraud. 

4. Beware of Phishing Scams

Phishing isn’t new. In fact, this attempt to obtain sensitive information online has been around for quite some time. So why are so many people still taken in by phishing scams? Because cybercriminals are getting better at what they do, not worse. 

Tessian, a London-based security firm, reports that 96% of phishing scams occur via email. In this scam, criminals send emails impersonating credible websites hoping you’ll click on the link and provide sensitive information. So far this year, the most impersonated brands have been Amazon, Netflix, PayPal, Apple, Chase, and Facebook. 

To keep from falling prey to a phishing scam, recognize the signs. Reputable companies won’t ask you to disclose sensitive info via email. You can also hover over a URL in a message to see whether it’s legit before you click on it. And if you detect subtle differences in a company’s URL or website content, steer clear.

5. Check Your Bank Account 

The truth is, cybercriminals are savvy. Even after adopting the tips above, there’s always the chance you could be hacked. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to your accounts. 

Most banks are good about monitoring for fraud and contacting customers in the event of a hack. That said, you shouldn’t just rely on your financial institution. After all, a cybercriminal charging $20 at a gas station probably won’t raise any red flags. 

It’s a good idea to monitor your own bank account at least once a week to make sure you recognize all the purchases. You should also sign up for banking alerts and consider downloading your bank’s mobile application. That way, you’ll receive a notification whenever your debit or credit card is used, your password is changed, etc. You’ll also be able to quickly check your account whenever you like.

Pay close attention, however, when downloading a banking app. Make sure you’re choosing the authorized one, and avoid accessing that app when connected to public Wi-Fi. It’s also a good idea to make sure your mobile device is secure. For example, use facial recognition (if it’s available) or your fingerprint to unlock your device. That way, if your phone is stolen, a criminal won’t be able to access your banking app. 

According to a Finder survey, 57% of Americans said online banking offered convenience they couldn’t get at a regular financial institution. Even before the pandemic, many consumers were opting to manage their finances online. While this option is indisputably popular, you need to be careful about where and how you do your online banking. By following these tips, you’ll be able to enjoy all the perks of online banking without the risk.