Online banking is all about convenience for most people. Indeed, I love banking online. It makes it easy to check my balances, transfer funds, and pay bills. It doesn’t matter where I am; online banking means that I can take care of everything financial without having to worry about being in town.
Unfortunately, as with all things related to technology, this increased convenience also comes with security risks. Your personal financial information might be vulnerable when you engage in online banking without taking proper precautions.
Online Banking at Home
It’s easiest to protect your information when you do your online banking from home. Avoiding public computers can be one of the best ways to stay safe. Avoid logging in to any financial accounts when you are using a library computer, or a computer in an Internet cafe.
At home, though, you still need to protect yourself. Make sure that your router is properly secure — especially if it’s a wireless router. You want it to be difficult for others to access your home’s Internet connection. You should also install security software on your computer, and make sure that it’s up to date. Some of the free products, including Avira, can be just as effective as the costlier products. Don’t assume that using a Mac will complete protect you, either. There has been a rise in malware aimed at Macs.
Online Banking While Away
Of course, part of the convenience of online banking is being able to check your accounts while away from home. I have been known to do online banking while visiting my parents, and in other situations. You can bank online and still protect your information, even while away from home. Just be careful, and make sure that the device you are using has updated security software.
Avoid using Wi-Fi hotspots when you are banking. It’s one thing to check your bank accounts when you’re using the password-protected Internet access provided to you by your hotel, or by a homeowner. It’s another thing to engage in sensitive online banking operations when you are using a hotspot that doesn’t even require you to log in. Don’t bank using these public connections.
Storing Your Passwords
More on Online Banking and Saftey
Be careful about where you keep your passwords. Don’t leave them around where others can find them. Keep them in a secure place. Create passwords that are unconnected with your personal information. Create strong passwords that are almost completely random, and that can’t be guessed by someone after poking around a little in your social media profile.
If you store passwords on your computer, make sure that it really is your own computer, and that others have very limited access to it. You should close all programs and windows when you aren’t using them. You can even up the ante a bit with the help of encryption software that will encrypt your log in information to add another layer of security, no matter where you are.
Avoid Phishing Attempts
Finally, be careful of phishing attempts with your online banking. Sometimes, you’ll receive an email from what looks like your bank. If you receive electronic statements, and other communication from your financial institution, you might be fooled, because you are expecting emails from your bank. You need to be careful. Be wary of clicking on links in emails, since you might be taken to phishing web site — where scammers will steal your log in credentials and then have access to your account. Instead, enter what you know to be the official site of your bank directly into the address bar.
Also, never give out bank account information over the Internet. Banks will not ask you to reply to them with your full account number and/or PIN. Additionally, you should avoid giving out such information over Skype or through any sort of instant messaging program. Be careful of who you give information to, especially if you didn’t initiate the contact.
Online banking is a great way to keep up with your accounts, no matter where you are. However, there are threats to your privacy and financial security all around you. Be careful about where and when you access your bank accounts, and you should be able to protect yourself to a certain degree from ID theft.
Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.