Millions of people enjoy the freedom and flexibility that online banking
and mobile banking
have to offer. Most online banking platforms and mobile apps allow customers 24/7 access to their accounts, enabling them to do such things as view account balances, transfer money to and from accounts, deposit checks using a smartphone camera, send money to family and friends, pay bills, and more! However, it’s important to always keep your guard up when accessing your bank accounts online.
Here are five tips for protecting your financial assets online:
- Use strong passwords. When creating a password for your online banking account, pick a long one (the lengthier the better), and use a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Avoid using passwords that have a logical sequence, such as “Happy1234”, or ones that contain personal information (in other words, don’t use the name of your street, pet, or child in a password). You should also change your passwords frequently. A good rule of thumb is to update your passwords at least once every six months. If you’re worried about remembering intricate, lengthy passwords, you may consider using a password manager. There are many options available online that can help you keep track of your passwords, just be sure to do your homework and choose one that is trusted and reputable.
- Use multi-factor authentication. Most banks require you to set up MFA, or multi-factor authentication, when establishing your online banking account. MFA is intended as an extra layer of protection for your account. Any time you are logging into your account from a new device or browser, you’ll be prompted to authenticate yourself via additional credentials that you supplied while setting up your account. One example of this would be a security code that must be entered, along with your password and username. Typically, you’ll choose to either have the code emailed or texted to you. Another example of MFA would be a security question that must be answered when attempting to log in from an unrecognized device or browser. The idea behind MFA is that if a crook does manage to intercept your online banking username and password, they would need to also bypass the security code or security question, because they’ll be logging in via a different device than you usually log in from. Keep in mind though, that if you choose security questions that are easy for a criminal to guess, or if your phone is lost or stolen and the crook tries logging into the account from that device, multi-factor authentication won’t be very helpful. This is why some cybersecurity experts recommend that you purposely set up your security questions with bogus answers; so they will not be easily guessed by anyone. Likewise, it’s recommended that you never store your online banking password in your phone, or have your bank’s app remember it. If you do, it will be very easy for a crook to get into your account if you lose your phone. A better line of defense is to use biometric login credentials such as fingerprint authentication or facial recognition for your banking apps, so that only you can access the account from your mobile device.
- Keep track of your account activity. Checking your account balances and transaction history frequently will help you spot any fraudulent activity in a timely fashion. Many banks also allow you to set up alerts to notify you of low account balances, large withdrawals, or other suspicious activity. If you notice any strange activity in your account, it’s important to notify the bank as quickly as possible.
- Don’t share your account information. The more people who know your online banking login credentials, the greater your chances of having your account compromised. As a general rule of thumb, don’t share your account information with anyone. Even if you have a joint account with your partner or spouse you shouldn’t share your login credentials with them. A safer option is for them to establish their own online banking profile, through which they can access the account. It’s also important to always be careful where you enter your online banking username and password. Crooks are constantly trying to get their hands on financial account credentials, and they utilize countless scams in order to do so. Beware of any emails or text messages you receive with links to log into your account, even if they appear to be from your bank. Crooks routinely try to trick unsuspecting victims by sending phony emails. Any time you need to log into your account, your safest bet is to go directly to your bank’s website and log in from there. Likewise, your bank will never call you and ask for your online banking credentials. If you receive any such calls, contact your bank directly using the public phone number displayed on their website.
- Always access your account securely. Be sure to only use legitimate banking apps and trusted browsers to log into your online bank account. Also, you should always ensure that you’re using a secure internet connection before you access your bank accounts online. Never conduct banking business over a public WiFi network such as those found in airports and coffee shops. A public WiFi network is typically not encrypted, which makes it easy for crooks to intercept sensitive information. If you must access your accounts on-the-go, a safer option is to use your cellular carrier’s data network, such as a 4G network. And always install the latest updates on your mobile device and computer. These updates often include security enhancements to better protect your device.
Online banking and mobile banking certainly make it easier to manage your finances, but remember to keep your guard up to help prevent your accounts from falling into the wrong hands. And if you do notice any suspicious activity in your accounts, or suspect that your online banking login credentials have been compromised, contact your bank as soon as possible.