We live life on the go. Everything from shopping to work to booking vacations has gone mobile, making it easy to check everything off the to-do list no matter where we are. But for every new part of life that crosses the digital divide, a long line of identity and hackers is ready and waiting to take advantage of vulnerabilities. Online banking is one particularly alluring option for thieves, so consumers need to guard their accounts carefully.
While bank customers can generally feel assured that their financial institution is working hard to ensure that online systems are safe, they should still follow some personal best practices.
Don't: Ever trust an email, purportedly sent by a bank, that demands account details, passwords or PINs. Thieves using phishing emails will send bank customers links which, once clicked, will collect any sensitive account information users enter.
Do: Guard against malware. This tried-and-true method for carrying out identity theft and is as popular as ever among thieves. Emails containing malware might not appear to be from a bank - they might be masquerading as a message from a friend, or even as a contest to win a vacation. But if a user clicks on an attachment, malware could automatically download to their computer, where it mines personal data and passes it all along to scammers. For added protection, keep anti-virus and anti-malware software up to date.
Don't: Assume that site encryption is always enough protection. Need to check an account while working remotely from a coffee shop? Even logging on to a secure site can be dangerous when using public WiFi. Using an unsecured network can leave users exposed to keylogging, in which software records every keystroke you make. So even if "https" is in the address bar, make sure the network is private and password-protected.
Do: Ask tough questions of the bank. Customers are vulnerable to attack, but so are bank employees. Identity thieves have hatched strategies to get into employees' work computers and gain access to the accounts of thousands of customers. Talk to a bank manager about policies and practices enforced among employees to protect customers' information. Ask, for instance, whether employees are required to use work computers for personal matters or whether employees are allowed to access work accounts from personal devices.
Online banking doesn't need to be a panic-stricken practice. Simply follow these tips, stay vigilant and you'll be better prepared to fight fraud.