Here are seven rules for protecting your financial and banking information online. Most should be common sense, but you can never let your guard down. After all, this is your money at stake − when it’s gone, you may not be able to get it back. If you haven’t updated your computer’s software lately, set up two-factor authentication, or changed your financial account passwords in a while, do it now to ensure that your financial information stays secure.
1. Don’t access your financial accounts on public Wi-Fi
When you’re on public Wi-Fi, hackers can more easily access your computer and steal personal information from it. You should never access your financial institution’s website through a computer, tablet, or mobile phone unless you’re on a secure Wi-Fi network with a password or using your own cell phone data connection. Secure Wi-Fi access is much more difficult for thieves to hack, so it keeps your information safer.
2. Avoid saving your login information
Some websites give you the option to save your login information for future use, but if someone uses your computer or mobile device after you, they could gain access to your financial accounts. To help prevent this from happening, many banking sites time out after a certain number of minutes of inactivity, and do not save your information.
3. Use strong passwords and change them often
Strong passwords have a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Many banks and financial institutions now require your online accounts to carry a password meeting these requirements. You should also change your password every couple of months and use different passwords for all your online accounts so that hackers will have a more difficult time gaining access to your information.
4. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible
Two-factor authentication is the next level of security that many financial institutions now offer. Usually, your institution will text a code when you log in online, although some banks also enable you to request a code via email or phone. You must enter this code in addition to your password to log in. This way, even if someone has stolen your password, they cannot access your accounts. It’s another hoop to jump through, but it could help keep your money safe, so set it up if your financial institutions offer it.
5. Keep your computer updated
Outdated computers and mobile devices may not be secure enough to protect your personal and financial data against the latest computer viruses. If your computer gets infected with a virus, a hacker could gain access to your financial accounts without you knowing it until your money is gone. Always perform your computer’s recommended updates as soon as they become available and install antivirus software on your computer.
6. Always type your bank or financial institution’s web address into your browser yourself
Some hackers send out “phishing” emails that appear to be from your financial institutions. They’re hoping you’ll enter your login information on their fake version of the site. Never click on links in emails that appear to be from your bank, even if they look legitimate. Instead, type the bank’s web address into the URL bar yourself, or use a search engine to find the correct web page. You can bookmark the right page for later use.
7. Monitor your accounts regularly
Following the above precautions should, hopefully, keep others out of your bank and other financial accounts. The only way to make sure is to check your account balances and transaction history regularly and make sure your money isn’t going anywhere it isn’t supposed to. If you notice suspicious activity, change your account password, and contact your bank immediately.