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7 Tips for Protecting Your Money and Identity Online

The great thing about online and mobile banking is that it’s convenient. Technology enables us to transfer money and manage our accounts more seamlessly than ever.

Unfortunately, those innovations have also created new security risks that hackers can take advantage of. Whereas consumers once had to worry only about their wallet being stolen or bank was broken into, they now need to think about whether all sorts of online behaviors put them at risk. That trade-off between convenience and security is a tricky one to navigate.

When it comes to your money, security should come first. But that does not mean you need to deny yourself all of the conveniences that online banking delivers. To stay secure while maximizing your time, take a look at these tips for protecting yourself and your money online:

1. Keep an eye on your bank information

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One of the best ways to stay secure when online is to be vigilant with your accounts. The great thing about online and mobile banking technology is that it makes it convenient to check your financial accounts on a daily basis.

Be on the lookout, in particular, for transactions that you do not recognize. If you see one, call your bank. You can learn more about new debit cards and how you can enable and disable certain transactions if you visit this website. Make sure to destroy the old one as soon as you activate the replacement card.

2. Protect your physical documents

When so much work is done online, it’s easy to forget that physical documents can profoundly affect your online security.

Documents containing sensitive personal information — such as a Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card details — can give hackers access to your most valuable accounts. In many cases, all they need to do is dig through your trash. Be sure to shred all non-permanent financial and personal documentation as soon as you’re done with it.

What about documents you do need to keep? Lock them up. These include things like your Social Security card, birth certificate, driver’s license, passport, and insurance policies. A safe deposit box is a good solution.

Digitize and encrypt sensitive documents that you might need access to online, including pay stubs, warranties, and medical records. Antivirus software is not enough; use encryption software to protect private information that you store digitally.

3. Beware of common online scams

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One of the more dangerous forms of internet fraud involves schemes meant to trick consumers into giving sensitive information to questionable sources. Other phishing or spoofing scams encourage users to download malware that makes their computers vulnerable to hacks.

These tactics are difficult to detect because the messages that scammers send can appear identical to legitimate emails from reputable organizations. Some scams take advantage of people’s compassion by detailing the needs of humanitarian causes.

Combat phishing by avoiding links in emails that seem too good to be true, questioning communications that require urgent action, and pausing before giving sensitive information like your Social Security number or login credentials to any source. You can also report these scams to the Federal Trade Commission to help the ongoing effort to combat the phenomenon.

4. Take password safety measures

According to the FIDO Alliance, 80% of data breaches are password-related. Due to many of these cybersecurity risks, there is a push to get rid of passwords altogether. Security experts suggest using alternative means of validation, such as fingerprint scanners and facial recognition.

If biometric means are not available, take steps to protect yourself as much as possible when using passwords. One way to do this is by differentiating your passwords.

With the vast number of accounts that people have, it is understandable that the majority of people reuse their passwords, many of which are too simple or contain too few characters.

To keep track of your accounts, use a password manager to house your login credentials. This way, you can use different, complicated passwords without worrying about forgetting them. You can also use multifactor authentication methods to add another layer of security when logging in to your most sensitive accounts, such as the ones tied to your personal finances.

5. Avoid using public Wi-Fi when banking online

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Hackers know how to take advantage of the widespread availability of Wi-Fi. They can position themselves between you and the wireless internet source and intercept personal information without you knowing it.

Never log in to personal accounts on public Wi-Fi networks. Better yet, turn off your Wi-Fi altogether. Use your cellular data. Protect yourself further by using a virtual private network. VPNs use encrypted channels to route your traffic to another server, which obscures your true location and device information.

6. Use number-changing cards

Pull out your credit or debit card, and you’ll see a few different numbers on it: an account number, a CCV, and an expiration date.

Number-changing cards transmit data between the card and the company’s servers. When the card is used, the merchant’s computers check with the card issuer to ensure that the entered digits match those that were displayed on the card at the time.

Stolen credit card numbers are often used well after when they were compromised. A number-changing card’s digits become useless to thieves within minutes, leaving them a little window in which to use the card.

7. Invest in identity protection

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Companies like LifeLock provide identity theft protection and insurance. Although they can’t stop every threat, they do offer peace of mind. And if a customer’s identity is compromised, they provide financial compensation to cover costs like attorneys, personal expenses, and stolen funds.

If you don’t want to pay for an identity theft service, some credit cards also offer identity monitoring. Beware, though, that most only monitor for breaches of certain data, such as your Social Security number, and they only search certain sites.

Prioritizing security in personal finance actually saves you from inconveniences in the long run. Many people get their identity stolen and have to spend thousands of dollars to get it back. That cost, as well as the stress that comes with it, is not worth your time or your money.

Turn these preventative measures into habits, and you can bank on your online safety.

About Matt Durham