From 24/7 access to remote check deposits, there are many perks to online banking. So it's no surprise that more than 70 percent of American consumers do at least some of their banking online, according to the Federal Reserve.
With so many people going online to manage their money, however, threats have arisen. Hackers, malware and fraudsters abound, ready and eager to steal online-banking passwords and the money they protect.
But you don't have to resign yourself to a world of unsafe banking. Here are 13 online-banking security tips you can practice before signing in to your account. Each will help ensure a safe online-banking experience.
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Though public Wi-Fi networks are easily accessible, you can't trust their security. These Wi-Fi networks are often not encrypted, making it easier for hackers to steal information from unsuspecting users.
To mitigate this weakness, never log in to your bank over a public network. Save any financial transactions for browsing at home, when you can use your private network. Or use the cellular-data connection provided by your smartphone or your own mobile hotspot. Alternatively, you can subscribe to a VPN service (virtual private network) that creates a secure tunnel through all Wi-Fi hotspots.
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Encrypted sites, which convert data into unreadable gibberish before sending it, keep your private information safe online. Your bank's website should already be encrypted, although you can double-check by looking for a padlock symbol in your web address bar and the letters "https" at the beginning of the web address. There are also HTTPS browser extensions you can download that will automatically encrypt your web data if the website offers it.
Many major banks offer an extra layer of security known as two-factor authentication (2FA) to protect account holders. Two-factor authentication requires you to enter an extra verification credential before you can access your account.
Anytime someone tries to log in to your account, the bank will send you a text or email with a unique code that must be entered into the bank's website along with your username and password. In most cases, 2FA is a free and easy security measure that helps prevent costly identity theft.
Do not allow your web browser to store private username and password information for your online banking websites. Some web browsers automatically store login credentials, so if that's the case for your browser of choice, disable this feature for your bank's website.
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Your bank will never email or text you to ask for your personal information or account details. If you receive an email or text message asking for that type of information, don't respond. Instead, call the bank's customer assistance line, which you'll find printed on the back of your ATM card or credit cards, and tell the bank about the message you received.
And remember: A stranger isn't going to randomly email you to let you know he or she wants to deposit thousands of dollars into your bank account if you'll just share your personal information. These are phishing scams and should be reported to your bank immediately.
Create a strong password for your online bank account. It should incorporate lowercase and uppercase letters, numbers, and even symbols where allowed. Don't stop there, though; change the password regularly, and don't use that same password for any other website or app. You can use a password manager to help you securely generate, store, update and remember a unique password for your online banking account.
Banking Trojans are a form of malware that can be unintentionally downloaded to your computer or smartphone through an email attachment or download. Once granted access to your computer or phone by such a Trojan, cybercriminals can steal your financial information and drain your account.
There are a few things you can do to protect yourself from a banking Trojan.
● Use an old computer. If you have an old computer lying around, install a new version of Windows and then designate that computer exclusively to online banking — not for web browsing. Better yet, use a Mac or install Linux on that old PC.
● Dedicate a browser. If you can't afford to set aside a designated banking computer, use a web browser different from your regular browser, and use that browser solely for online banking purposes. Because Microsoft web browsers are a common virus target, non-Microsoft browsers — such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera or Vivaldi — are generally better options.
● Restrict the app sources for Android devices. Unauthorized app stores are full of malicious apps. To make sure you can't access them, go into Settings, select Security and make sure Unknown Sources is turned off. (This isn't a problem for iPhones and iPads.)