Online banking tools have revolutionized the world of personal finance. You can deposit checks, transfer funds and pay bills all without leaving the comfort of your home, but you need to make sure that you’re doing these things safely.
“The Internet offers the potential for safe, convenient new ways to shop for financial services and conduct banking business, any day, anytime,” states the FDIC. “However, safe banking online involves making good choices — decisions that will help you avoid costly surprises or even scams.”
With an online-only bank, you have to take more steps to verify that the website or mobile app comes from a legitimate financial institution and is not just run by a scammer. You also still have to be careful when using the online services offered by your financial institution. A common practice for scammers is to create websites that are similar to those of a real bank, in order to trick people into giving out their personal information and their passwords and other account information. Before you enter any information into a website, double-check the URL to make sure it is correct. And always make sure the website begins with “https” to ensure that it’s secure.
Similarly, don’t click a link that comes from an email, even if that email seems exactly like the ones your financial institution typically sends. Instead, open a browser and navigate to the website yourself. Taking this extra step ensures that you end up at the correct page and are not rerouted to a fraudulent one.
Make sure you have a strong password for your online banking and change it regularly. Don’t choose anything that could be easily guessed, such as your birthday, family members’ birthdays, addresses or anniversaries. It’s best to not use any word that can be found in the dictionary, because hacking software can quickly scan through those and land on the correct one. Replacing letters with numbers that look the same and putting an exclamation point at the end of a word are overused tricks and also easy for scammers to guess.
Furthermore, it should go without saying that your banking password shouldn’t be the same as your password for other things. Your password goes to your financial institution through an encryption system that protects it from hackers, but if you use the same password for other websites, there are many ways to obtain it. Since many people reuse passwords, it is common for hackers to try a discovered password on more than one account.
“Okay, in the real world you probably have more than one online financial account. Rather than strain your brain memorizing tough, hard-to-crack passwords for each of them, enlist the help of a password manager,” says Neil J. Rubenking from PCMag.com. “The best ones not only store your passwords securely but also help you work through your collection of passwords and replace weak ones and duplicates.”
It’s best if you don’t access online banking when you are not using your own network. You don’t know how many other people are using it and how it is secured or monitored.
“If you can’t resist, at least connect through a virtual private network,” states Rubenking. “Now nobody can read your encrypted traffic. For free VPN protection, we like CyberGhost and VPNBook. Commercial VPNs like Private Internet Access and Norton Hotspot Privacy are ad-free, with more power and flexibility.”
Using a VPN will change your IP address. This means that your financial institution’s website will not recognize your incoming traffic and may ask for more information on top of your correct password to try to authenticate that you are whom you claim to be. These measures can include asking set security questions or requiring secondary phone or email authentication, if you have those features enabled. If you think you forgot the answer to your security question, wait until you get home so you don’t get locked out of your account by making too many wrong guesses.
If you can’t wait until you get home and you have a smartphone or tablet, just turn off Wi-Fi and use your mobile connection. Anyone else could be monitoring public Wi-Fi, but your mobile data plan is difficult for outsiders to access.
Last, make sure you review your banking transactions regularly to ensure that there isn’t something there that shouldn’t be.
Online banking can make your life easier, but you need to make sure it’s safe. Stop by today to let us know if you have any questions.
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