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November 7, 2019

10 Tips for Keeping Finances Safe Online and Off

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Gone are the days of making in-person trips to the bank every month, if not every week. Thanks to the rise of online banking, there are many people who may never have to set foot in a financial institution again. However, despite the convenience of online banking, it opens us up to new risks from hackers and scammers, who find new ways to breach devices almost every day. You can easily thwart their attempts at stealing your information with these tips for keeping finances safe online and off:

  • Keep passwords and PINs private
  • Pay attention to the sites and apps you use
  • Protect your network
  • Use an official banking app
  • Review your transactions every month
  • Check your credit report annually
  • Shred old paperwork
  • Don’t keep your SSN on you
  • Beware card skimmers
  • Use privacy screen protectors

Online: Keep Passwords and PINs Private

Your bank secures your online account through the use of a password or PIN. If this piece of information falls into the wrong hands, a hacker could wreak havoc with your finances. That’s why keeping them safe is of the utmost importance. Don’t share your passwords with other people, make them unique and unguessable, and change them frequently.

Keeping Finances Safe Online: Pay Attention to the Sites You Use

Not every website or app is as secure as it could be. Before giving any financial details away, make sure you trust the organization asking for it. Websites should be secured using HTTPS security and have the URL you expect (otherwise it might be a spoof designed to steal your data). You should also always use trusted sources to download apps, such as Google’s Play Store or Apple’s App Store.

Online: Protect Your Network

Hackers don’t always need your passwords to steal your information. Sometimes all they need is for you to use an unsecured internet connection, such as public wifi. Public wifi allows everyone using the same network to watch the activities of other users. If you happen to share financial details over an open network, you run the risk of those details being seen by strangers. Don’t run that risk, by avoiding public networks wherever possible. If you absolutely can’t, at least connect your device to a VPN.

Online: Use an Official Banking App

One of the easiest ways of keeping finances safe is to use the official app of your banking institution. These apps are tightly encrypted and constantly monitored by your bank to protect you against vulnerabilities. Not only are they often the safest way to do your banking, they also allow you to constantly and personally monitor your own finances. This helps prevent surprises and keeps you on top of any issues that arise.

Offline: Review Your Transactions Every Month

Keeping finances safe is both an online and offline activity. When you take care of both halves of your banking life simultaneously, you ensure that you’re doing everything you can to stay protected against the people who would steal and abuse your data. The first step to staying safe offline is to review your monthly bank statements as soon as you get them. Although most banking institutions monitor for purchases they deem to be fraudulent, your knowledge of your transaction history is still the most effective tool you have at pinpointing a potential breach.

Offline: Check Your Credit Report Annually

In addition to keeping an eye on your banking statements, you should also take a look at your credit report every year. You may notice unauthorized activity or incorrect information. By not regularly checking your credit report and missing these red flags, they could do irreparable damage to your financial situation without your knowledge. Thankfully, by catching these problems early, they can usually be corrected and prevented in future.

Offline: Shred Old Paperwork

We put a lot of focus on digital hackers and their ability to steal your information from halfway around the world. But you should never discount the dangers of old-fashioned thieves. Storing tons of old paperwork in your home creates the risk of thieves coming across it. And while the idea of thieves normally conjures up an image of masked strangers, in situations like these the person stealing your paperwork is more likely to be someone you know personally: an estranged spouse, an errant child, etc. Rather than leaving old, no-longer-needed paperwork laying around, shred it instead.

Offline: Don’t Keep Your SSN on You

Speaking of thieves, there are plenty of people out there who would be seriously tempted by an unattended or easy-to-snatch wallet. That’s why you should never keep your SSN or social insurance card/number on your person. If that falls into the wrong hands, you could be facing an identity theft crisis that can dramatically upend your life for years to come. Instead, keep that piece of your identification at home, preferably in a safe.

Offline: Beware Card Skimmers

A few years ago, the threat of card skimmers stealing data from your debit or credit cards’ magnetic strip was ever-present. While the standardization of card chips has dramatically reduced that threat, you should always be conscious the problem has not been eradicated entirely. Every time you use an ATM or even a bank pump, if you see a piece of technology that looks out of place nearby, consider using a different machine. Other signs of tampering include stiff number keys or cameras pointed at a pin pad instead of at the user.

Offline: Use Privacy Screen Protectors

When you connect to the internet out in public, even if you use cellular data instead of public wifi, there’s always a risk of wandering eyes watching what you do online. Many scammers and hackers use this technique to steal your data simply because it’s unexpected: most of us think of hackers sitting in darkened basements in front of a computer rather than in your local coffee shop. To stay safe from prying eyes, consider using privacy screens that distort the way screens look when seen from side-angles.

Online banking is one of the easiest ways to handle your finances. These tips will also make it one of the safest.

To protect yourself further, check out our VPN service.

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