In this digital age, it’s no surprise that you can now conduct most of your banking transactions online. In fact, a fast-growing amount of people are starting to utilize online banking and it has become a huge trend in the tech and banking industries.
However, just like your brick-and-mortar bank with a super-secure vault, online banks can be robbed. Instead of cracking a safe though, a hacker can run off with your money by just clicking a few buttons and hitting a few keys on their keyboard.
To address the growing concerns regarding online banking, banks and credit unions have a number of policies to keep online customer accounts secure. Standard measures include using firewalls, anti-virus protection on bank computers, fraud monitoring, and website encryption, which scrambles data so only the intended recipient can read it. If you participate in online banking, chances are your financial institution employs these security measures already.
Is online banking already safe?
Online banking is only safe when proper security measures are put in place on the back end by the financial institution and when a customer on the front end also does his or her part to keep the account secure. Yup, that’s right. YOU have responsibilities to fulfill as well, and without your cooperation, banks can only do so much to keep your money safe.
Large-scale data breaches often show up in the headlines, but many criminals also work on a smaller scale by attacking consumers directly. For example, fraudsters often use so-called phishing scams, in which they send out emails pretending to represent a financial institution in the hopes of hooking an unsuspecting consumer.
The email might suggest there’s a problem with your account and ask for your bank password or Social Security number. Other examples might say you won $100 million, but your account information is needed to wire the funds. If you reply, the criminal could use the information to illegally make purchases or withdraw money from your account. So bottom-line, don’t respond to emails that are too good (or bad) to be true.
Ways to protect yourself
Skip public Wi-Fi for private banking
A public network is just what its name implies, public. This means anyone can see what you are doing online unless each page you visit is encrypted and I doubt that is the case. The security of your private home network is ideal. If you have to log in while away from home, consider using your cellular data plan instead of Wi-Fi, or a virtual private network known as a VPN. Regardless of how you go online, check for web page encryption by making sure the address on the browser starts with “HTTPS.” The “s” signals that the page is secure.
Keep anti-virus software current
This one is easy. Make sure your anti-virus software is up to date on your home computers and mobile devices. Cybercriminals are constantly finding ways to crack the latest software so if your program is 4 years old, then you’re 3 years behind the criminals. Best to keep ahead of them by keeping your software up-to-date.
Choose an institution that uses industry-standard security
You probably already want a bank or credit union that offers accounts with low fees and high-interest rates. Add “top-notch security” to your checklist. Then, make sure your online accounts are backed by robust technology.
An example is a multifactor authentication. Here’s how it works: When logging in, instead of just asking for a username and password, the financial institution requires you to provide another piece of information, or factor, to verify yourself. It could be a unique passcode sent to your smartphone as a text message, or even your own fingerprint. The point is it’s another layer, one not so easy to steal.
Change passwords regularly.
Use combinations that are difficult to guess. An example of such is a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Obviously, the more complex the password, the harder it will be to crack and the more likely it will provide protection against hackers. In addition, do not use the same password across different logins. Your Facebook password should not be the same as your online banking password.
Ask for text alerts
Many institutions let customers choose to receive alerts via text or email whenever large transactions are made on their accounts, or if the balance drops to a certain amount. This allows customers to reach out to the bank immediately if they see a purchase or transfer they didn’t make, and protect their account against further fraudulent activity. In addition, customers can dispute unauthorized charges for 60 days after the date of their bank statement.