Online banking, and paying off your credit cards online, is generally safe: millions of people do it every day. The issue? If there’s a problem, it’s a big problem.
It’s your money, after all. Possibly all of it. And the idea of someone getting their grubby little paws on some or all of your hard-earned cash is enough to make you want to keep your money stuffed underneath your mattress. Luckily, you don’t have to resort to that. Online banking is a safe and effective way to manage your money — as long as you take some precautions.
Use Good Passwords
Use basic password security. In other words, pick a unique password you don’t use for any other site. Make sure it’s a unique combination of characters; and it should not contain anything related to you personally: no maiden names, street names, pet names, spouse’s names, children’s names, birthdates, high school graduation years, etc. — nothing a hacker could guess. It should also not contain your PIN number. Change your password every so often, and make sure that the email account your forgotten password email goes to is also secure.
Keep Antivirus Software Updated
One of the ways a hacker gets into your account? It puts a monitor onto your computer via a virus you pick up. And no, avoiding suspicious sites won’t keep you safe: opening the wrong email or Facebook message could set you up to be vulnerable. Your firewall should be turned on and you should be running active antivirus software at all times. You should also make sure that you update all your software and the apps on your computer whenever it requests you do so: often, these are related to security issues.
Don’t Use Public Wi-Fi For Financial Business
Public networks are, by nature, unsecured to everyone on the network. That means you never know who’s listening in, and what data they can glean from your information — including your banking info or credit card numbers. Keep your banking to the safety of your home network (which should be secured with its own password). If you have to login from somewhere other than home, Nerd Wallet recommends you use your cell phone data plan (make your phone a hotspot).
[We’ve got your online shopping covered, too. Read our tips here.]
Choose A Bank That Uses Two-Factor Authentication
When you login, instead of just asking for a username and password, the site should also require some other piece of information. That can be a code sent to your email or phone, or even a fingerprint. It makes sure that you’re you, and all the most secure banks are using it these days. Sounds like a pain in the butt? Getting your account hacked is much, much worse.
Don’t Fall Prey To Phishing Schemes
Your bank will never email you asking for your account number or your passwords. This is a classic phishing attempt. Also be aware of both emails that appear to come from your bank, and unsolicited phone calls from your bank. Your bank will never ask you for your PIN or your password, though they may ask for answers to security questions.
Monitor Your Accounts Closely
With online banking, you can monitor the transactions happening on your account almost in real time. Make sure you check your transactions on a regular basis — don’t wait a month for your paper statement to find out that someone’s draining money from your account. The quicker you catch it, the quicker you can contact the bank and get your money back.