Millions of Americans love the convenience of online shopping and banking. Take David: he does almost everything online, from ordering groceries, booking taxis and buying movie tickets to paying bills, making doctor appointments and investing in the stock market. One day David discovered some unauthorized charges on his debit card—someone had acquired his debit card number and was using it.
David immediately worked with his bank to investigate and reverse the unauthorized charges. Then, he took steps to keep his personal information and his accounts safe online. Here’s how you can do the same:
Avoid using public Wi-Fi or “hotspots” when banking or sending credit card information with a mobile device or laptop. At home, give your Wi-Fi system a strong password to help prevent outsiders from logging on. And when shopping or banking online from any location, look for the lock symbol in your browser’s URL window to verify the connection is secure.
Create the strongest passwords possible. This means using more characters and incorporating numbers and symbols where possible. Don’t use the same passwords across multiple shopping or banking sites, and be sure to change your passwords frequently. For even more protection, David uses a password management app to help securely store, retrieve and even create stronger passwords. And while it may go without saying, we’ll remind you anyway: Don’t share your passwords with anyone or write them down where someone else can find them.
David has made it a habit to check his online bank account and credit card account statements regularly. He looks closely for unusual activity and is prepared to alert his financial institution immediately if he sees something that seems off. When offered by his bank or credit card companies, he sets alerts to tell him when high-dollar transactions occur.
Computer operating system, mobile software and browser updates frequently contain security patches designed to keep your information secure as you connect to the Internet, visit websites and use apps. Keep your computers and devices updated with the appropriate system software (refer to manufacturer-provided information). And don’t forget to back up your data regularly.
Paperless statements not only reduce clutter—they could be more secure. With electronic statements, you’re less vulnerable to identity theft, since a username and password are required to view statements and there are no paper records that a thief could take from your trash or intercept through the mail.
Never give out personal or financial information to someone who contacts you and asks you to update, validate or confirm your account information via the telephone or email. Only give out information if you have initiated contact, for example if you call your bank or an online shopping site at the number posted on their website or in their app. If you’re not sure if a call or email is from your bank, call them to check.
David takes advantage of the security features built-in to his mobile phone, tablet and computer. He locks his phone or tablet when not using them. When available, David enables tracking and/or remote lock and wipe features in case a device is lost or stolen.
Protecting your online bank accounts means paying attention, keeping up with new technology, and acting quickly if something goes wrong. Share these cybersecurity tips with your family members and encourage the use of secure banking and shopping habits on all devices.