As convenient as online banking is, it does come with a few risks. Hackers and scammers try to take advantage of consumers who perform financial transactions online. These risks, though, can be minimized or avoided altogether. You simply need to learn a few new habits.
1. Before you sign up, make sure that the bank is real
Sophisticated criminals have a new way of stealing online: they create entire fake banks. In one recent case, for instance, criminals did such a good job designing a fake online bank that they managed to fool hundreds of consumers.
If you plan to open an account with an online bank, you need to first make sure that the institution is real. Read up on the bank and look for verification and encryption information on the address bar when you open the bank’s website. If it is a real bank, you should see a section on the address bar that states the name of the bank next to the URL.
2. Make sure that you are on the right website
For more than a decade now, criminals have successfully scammed consumers into volunteering sensitive financial information on their own with a technique named phishing. In this scam, criminals send out fake, official looking emails that they design to look as if they come from well-established banks.
They either directly ask for sensitive information or offer consumers embedded links inviting them to access their existing accounts. In fact, though, the links lead to fake banking sites. When a consumer attempts to sign in, his credentials are harvested.
Staying clear of phishing scams is easy when you learn two important rules: never give away important financial information to anyone, and never visit an online banking site through a link in an email.
3. Do not get taken in by voice phishing
Voice phishing is a more daring version of the regular phishing scam. Criminals call people up with recorded messages that ask them to call their bank with a number they provide. Usually, they use a technique called number spoofing to calm any suspicions that victims may have about using a strange new number.
With this technique, criminals are able to make any number show up on a victim’s caller ID with the name of the bank they want. When victims call, they are usually reassured to see the bank’s name appear on their screen.
They think nothing of it when the criminals on the other end ask them for sensitive financial information. As with the regular phishing trick above, it is easy to stay clear of this trick by resolving to never give up sensitive information to anyone who asks for it.
4. Use a safe computer and Internet connection
One of the main reasons hackers create malware is to be able to install key logger software on computers to be able to spy on people with as they type their passwords and credit card numbers in. Keeping your computer protected with an up-to-date operating system and properly updated antivirus software is a good way to stay safe.
It is also sensible to make sure that you do not access your online banking site with an unsecured connection – say, the hotspot at a coffee shop.
5. Use a password manager
It can be extremely difficult to follow all the rules of good password use: using different passwords on every site, making sure that all passwords use a mix of letters, numbers and special characters, changing passwords once every month and so on can be too much for most people.
It is easy to keep up with all these requirements, though, when you use good password manager software, such as Dashlane, Roboform, KeePass or LastPass.
6. Check your statements
Many people get hit by online theft for amounts less than $500 and never realize it. If you have more money in the bank than you actually need day-to-day, it can be easy to not notice such losses.
Checking your statements on a regular basis, then, is an important part staying safe online. If you suspect that you have been hit, you can quickly change your password and notify your bank.
7. Make sure that you get the right app
If you access your online bank account on a smartphone or tablet, getting your bank’s app is a good way to stay safe. You need to make sure that the app really does come from your bank, though.
Rather than search for your bank’s app on the Google Play, Windows or Apple stores yourself, you should look for it on your bank’s website.
8. Get two-factor authentication
If your bank offers two-factor authentication, ask to activate it on your account. Each time you access your bank online, you will need to enter a fresh one-time password. It can be much harder for criminals to access your account when they do not have access to your phone.
9. Apply to set up notifications
Many banks send out text-message notifications of all transactions and events to customers. Getting a heads up each time a transaction is made is a good way to make sure that you keep on top of everything that happens on your account. If your bank does not offer notifications by default, you should apply for them.
10. Set up transaction limits
Most banks allow their online customers to set up a limit to the amount of money that can be transferred or spent online each day. If a criminal does access your account, a transaction limit can control the amount of damage they do.
Finally, while it can seem too elementary to mention, people often get hit when they forget to log off their online banking accounts after accessing them. Not logging off can be especially risky on phone apps or office computers that others have access to.