PRACTICE SAFE ONLINE BANKING
If you're like the average person, the Internet has become a way of life. You wake up and check your email. Many people also get their first taste of the day's national and world headlines; even local newspapers are available online for perusal. Then it's off to work; and whether you have an office or a cubicle, chances are the centerpiece of that space is your work computer. If you're on the road, you may have a laptop beside you on the car seat. At the end of the day, it's back online at home to chat with friends, do a little social or business networking and even some shopping.
You probably also perform a lot of your financial transactions online. From paying bills to signing up for new subscriptions and even keeping track of bank statements, it's all done from the comfort and convenience of your home. But have you ever thought about the safety and security of doing your banking this way? Unfortunately, most of us have gotten so used to the computer age and being surrounded by technology that we rarely give a moment's attention to the threats that inherently come with it. So, let's remedy that by taking the next few minutes to see how you can be safer when doing your banking online.
Be cautious in 'Cyberspace'
While it would be nice to think that everyone using the Internet were just out there in cyberspace doing good, it would also be extremely naïve. The fact is that there are plenty of people out there who are up to absolutely no good. They're running scams trying to hijack your personal banking information so that they can get into your account and not only take your money but also steal your identity.
Know the online bank
It's easy to know exactly who you're dealing with when you initially open an account at a brick-and-mortar bank. If the institution supports online banking, you'll receive the information necessary to access your account online, and you shouldn't have too much to worry about other than typing in the bank's web address correctly.
But what if you're opening an account directly online? Just because you may have gotten a 'special offer' doesn't mean you should automatically jump on it and put in your personal information before you know just what company it will be going to. Do your research. Make sure you know about the company before you set up an account. You need to make sure you're comfortable with the entity that you'll be working with.
Look for detailed information. Online banks should typically have a page that talks about the organization, their offerings and their security measures. Read this information carefully as these are the people you'll be entrusting to hold your money.
Before you sign up with any online bank, find out the risks that your money may face. Not all financial institutions are FDIC-insured. Be sure that the one you're considering is before you trust them with your finances.
Banks typically share customer information with affiliates that have products they think you may be interested in. But, if you're trying to cut down on these types of mail offers, you may not want your information passed on. The good news here is that banks must also offer you an opportunity to choose to not have your personal information shared. Look for their 'opt-out' section and how to use it.
Make sure it's the real thing
One you're actively doing your banking online, there are a few more things to be wary about. For instance, there are a number of websites out there that have been created by scammers. They look just like the website of a real bank or other entity, but they're copycat sites. They may be sent to you as a link in an e-mail that says your account requires some action. That link will often direct you to a page that looks like it's from your bank website and you'll be asked to enter your personal access information. Once you do it will give you an error message, such as "We're having technical difficulties right now. Please try again later." While you may think this to be a perfectly normal thing to happen and wait until later, what has really happened is that you've given the scammer your log-in information for your real bank website. They'll have full access to your account until you, or the bank, discover that something's wrong. The scammers know that they have limited time to do anything so they usually work quickly. A lot of damage may have already been done by the time you actually catch it.
The way to avoid being a victim of this kind of scam is to never ever click on an e-mail link to go to your banking website. If you receive an e-mail saying your account needs action, open a new browser window and type in the address that you usually use for your banking, not the one in the e-mail. If your account does need some sort of action, you should see a notification as soon as you log into the account on your own. Most times you'll see that it's a fraudulent e-mail.
Secure transactions only
In most cases, the Internet is a very open network of connections from your computer to all the websites you visit. A skilled hacker can get in and, to some extent, see what you're doing online. The way to prevent this is to make sure you are doing your work through a secure website, one that's much more difficult to 'spy' on. Most banks' websites have layers of security features built in. Many use highly encrypted web pages, passwords, PIN numbers, personalized photo protection and other methods to ensure that others can't see your information or easily log in pretending to be you.
While online banking is a major convenience, it's important that you do everything you can to make it a safe experience. It only takes one time for a thief to gain access to your personal information, leaving you in a situation where it may take years to get your identity back and clean up your credit record.
5 QUICK WAYS TO SECURE YOUR COMPUTER
1. Use current anti-virus & anti-spyware software
2. Ensure all software is kept up to date with the latest patches
3. Use complex passwords and never write them down
4. Disable the "remember passwords" feature in your Internet browser
5. Change the factory assigned username and password on your Internet router or modem