Criminals are crafty, smart, and — for the most part — lazy. They are looking for accounts they can easily hack and information that is simple to steal. By putting up barriers, even simple ones, you can help protect your account from thieves.
Think like a detective
Whether you receive online or paper statements of your account’s activity, it is important to read them line by line. It may seem tedious and time-consuming, but thoroughly reviewing your statements will reveal discrepancies and charges that are not yours. To help make sure you receive full fraud protection from your financial institution, Investopedia’s Michele Lerner advises checking your account every day or at least once a week.
Build strong locks
A unique password acts as a deadbolt on your account. If your password is too hard to crack, a hacker will move on to another victim. To build a strong password, you need to include elements such as a mix of upper and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers, according to Forbes contributor Rebecca Lake. Longer passwords that include a phrase are more secure than short passwords, and even though personal info like birthdates are easier to remember, it will weaken your password, she adds.
“Remember to update your online banking passwords regularly. Changing them every three to six months could help lower the odds of your password being stolen or decoded by hackers,” says Lake. If available from your financial institution, you can increase the security of your account with a two-factor authentication code, she adds. Although it is an extra step to take to access your account, it is a step worth taking to help keep your account safe.
Avoid public Wi-Fi
Using public wireless access to check your account, manage, or pay bills is a risky move, warns Lerner. Anytime you access your account for any reason, you need to use a wireless signal that is password-protected.
For times when Wi-Fi is your only connection to take care of business, The Balance writer Justin Pritchard recommends keeping your operating system running with updated software, disabling the “connect automatically” default on your smartphone or laptop, and installing and updating anti-virus programs. You will also want to heed warnings from your browser.
“When visiting secure sites, make sure that ‘https:’ appears in the address bar and look for the padlock icon,” says Pritchard. “If you get any warnings (such as untrusted certificates or similar) — especially unexpected warnings while using Wi-Fi away from home — wait until you’re on a secure network to access bank accounts.”
Opt for alerts
Keeping your account safe is a group effort. If your financial institution offers them, it’s a good idea to sign up for alerts and notifications. This way, your account is constantly monitored. “The kinds of alerts you may want to set up include notifications for new credit and debit transactions, failed login alerts, password change alerts and outgoing wire transfer alerts,” advises Lake.
Do not let thieves steal from you or compromise your personal information and identity. Use these tips to help manage and protect your account.