Advancing technology continues to provide efficiencies and convenience to our daily lives, especially in the forms of online shopping and banking. Where you once needed to physically travel into a store or financial institution to make a purchase or transfer funds, you now have the power and capability to perform many transactions anywhere, anytime from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. And while e-commerce has significantly improved the ease at which we manage our purchases and accounts, it can also put your money and identity at risk.
Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their methods to gain access to your personal information and hack into your accounts with ease – and they’re having enormous success. It is essential to remain vigilant when shopping or banking online to avoid falling victim to a cyber attack. To help, we’ve compiled a list of tips to keep your finances, personal information, and identity secure during online transactions.
- Enable multi-factor authentication
This is an additional safety step, which can be quite effective in deterring cybercriminals. By simply adjusting your privacy settings on most accounts, you can opt for a code to be sent to your email or mobile phone to enter before gaining access to your account.
- Choose a strong password
Passwords should be at least 15 characters and a combination of various upper- and lower-case letters, symbols, numbers, and words to make it challenging for hackers to guess. Passwords such as “123456,” “password,” or “qwerty” are among the first to be hacked. Check out methods fraudsters use to hack your password and how to create one that keeps your information safe.
- Change your password often
It is recommended to change your password every one to three months and never recycle old passwords. Experts also say to use a different password for each of your accounts. That way if one of your accounts is vulnerable, the others may still be in the clear.
- Keep a physical copy
Consider jotting your account information in a non-digital log, such as a notebook. This keeps your data safe from online hackers and is a reference in case you forget any login credentials. It is important to note that you should always keep sensitive data in a secure location, such as a fireproof safe or locked drawer, to prevent it from being stolen.
- Use a random password generator or password manager
For business or particularly sensitive accounts, you can also use a random password generator, which creates a new password in a defined amount of time or a password manager to easily store and remember your passwords. You will likely be required to password-protect your password manager, so make sure to remember it.
- Ensure your security programs are up-to-date
Always make sure that your software’s antivirus and firewall security programs are updated and properly enabled before accessing your financial account or shopping online.
- When in doubt, call your financial institution
If you receive any communication that appears to be from your financial institution requesting account details or other sensitive information, including your Social Security Number, call your financial institution directly to verify their request before responding. Legitimate organizations will typically never ask for your personal information over the phone, text, or email, so it is likely a phishing attempt to steal your data. Clicking on in-email or –text links may end up riddling your device with malware, so it is better to be safe than sorry. Read our article on the different types of Phishing scams to watch for.
- Do your research
Before setting up an account online and divulging your personal information, make sure to research the company thoroughly to identify its legitimacy and trustworthiness. Don’t be afraid to call them directly or look up reviews on other consumers’ experiences with the company. For reference, secure websites always start with “https://” – if you don’t see the “s,” don’t trust the site.
- Be careful who you trust
If someone texts or emails you asking for your Social Security Number, password, or other sensitive data, it is important to never reveal it. Even if you know the person on the other end, hackers can easily see your text and email conversations and use that data to wipe out your accounts.
- Use a third-party service
Services such as PayPal act as a protective middleman for online transactions. For a small fee, they help safeguard your private information and provide dispute services, if needed.
- Close it out
Make sure to always log out of your accounts after completing a transaction and close your browser. Additionally, avoid allowing your computer to save login data and automatically populate it when logging in – while this helps you to remember passwords, it makes it easier for cybercriminals to access your accounts.
- Ensure every transaction requires a password
One-click payment options may be easy, but not secure. Make sure that every financial transaction or purchase you make online requires a password. This way, you’ll know only someone with your password can perform it.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi or computers
Public computers may already have malicious software installed before you sit down so your information may be compromised immediately upon logging into your online accounts. Public Wi-Fi connections are also easier for fraudsters to hack into and access your data. As a rule of thumb, ensure all transactions are secure by completing them from home on your own device.
- Trust your instincts
If it looks suspicious, it probably is. Log out of your account, get offline, and shut down your computer immediately if you see any suspicious activity. Turning your computer off will prevent hackers from remotely accessing your computer and acting as you.
Staying safe online is no easy feat, but we are here to help ensure your information remains secure.