Online banking has made managing personal finances easier than ever. However, it has also provided cyber criminals with a whole new way to get at Americans’ money. In 2014, hackers snatched $16 billion from about 13 million consumers, according to Javelin Strategy and Research, making it more important than ever to safeguard data.
Although financial institutions dedicate plenty of resources to fighting fraud, there are several actions you can take to thwart thieves. Here’s where to get started.
Create strong passwords
Make fraudsters’ lives more difficult by coming up with robust passwords. That means ditching any login credentials that contain easy-to-find information like your name or birthplace. Instead, use a combination of numbers, letters and symbols. Include a mix of lower- and uppercase letters, and consider changing it every few months. Write your passwords down, but don’t keep them saved on your computer. Instead, store them somewhere safe in your home.
Download security software
Bolster your desktop or laptop’s virtual armor by installing the latest security software, which can ward off viruses and other bugs. You should also practice caution when browsing the web. Most times, a simple eye-test should suffice — if it looks sketchy, click away. This is especially true if you’re ordering something online. If a website doesn’t look trustworthy, or at all gives you pause, don’t enter your credit card information. Credit card fraud data suggest that hackers will increasingly target online transactions as technology gets more secure around in-person purchases.
Avoid e-mail scams
Viruses and malware can also infect your system via e-mail. Cyber criminals are pretty crafty these days and often disguise themselves by using names from your list of contacts. Read every e-mail carefully, even if it purports to come from your colleague or best friend. If something looks suspicious, don’t open any links or attachments, and definitely don’t send your credit card or bank account number.
Try to get into the habit of logging into your account and looking over your transactions regularly, even daily. If something looks amiss, contact your financial services provider immediately. They’ll be able to freeze your account, investigate the security breach and possibly refund any money that was lost.
Sign up for alerts
Take precautions one step further by enrolling in text and e-mail alerts, which are offered by financial institutions like PrimeTrust Federal Credit Union. You can tailor these alerts to notify you about potentially suspicious activity — say, whenever more than $200 is withdrawn from your account — and you can also opt to receive daily checking account balance notifications.
The bottom line
Putting a stop to online crime requires a joint effort between financial institutions and the members that they serve. By making some of the aforementioned moves, you’ll be lowering your risk of getting caught off guard.
This article is courtesy of Tony Armstrong at NerdWallet
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