Ways to Safeguard your Online Bank Account

Identity theft is becoming more and more of a serious problem these days and many victims often find themselves with an empty or nearly empty bank account before they know it’s happened. You work hard for your money and like many people, you probably save as much of it as you can, in the hopes of someday enjoying a comfortable retirement. 

The accessibility of your personal accounts, online can be a great convenience.  You can make and check deposits and withdrawals check your automatic transactions and direct deposits in a flash, transfer money between accounts at your leisure and balance your accounts without the added environmental waste of paper statements.  It all sounds great, but for many, online banking has been a nightmare.

Even many businesses can find themselves losing money to clever thieves; it seems that no one is exempt from the, ever increasing methods of theft. One thing is for certain, there will always be thieves trying to get someone else’s money. While it’s true that online banking comes along with a very big risk of identity theft and financial loss, it’s also true that there are a few ways in which you can safeguard your bank accounts and still enjoy banking online.

Know your bank’s policies; terms and conditions, privacy policies, etc., these are listed on their websites and if you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask at a branch, call or email your bank when you have questions.  Knowledge truly is power, especially when you’re trying to keep your identity and money safe.

If you are an individual or a business, make sure that your bank has a good, solid monitoring system in place. Once you open your online bank account, be sure to use the monitoring system by setting your alerts and preferences. A good monitoring system includes your choice of alerts for a number of things. You can set your alerts to email you when fraud transactions, withdrawals, transfers, and more are occurring, so that you can report them immediately. 

This monitoring system should allow for detection of suspicious account activity and alert you immediately, by email, phone, cell phone even snail mail. Quick action from the monitoring system can stop a suspicious transaction, even before it is completed.

By setting your alerts to phone or email you whenever there are withdrawals, or transfers, whenever your checking account amount drops below a certain number or when your credit card is used or a credit limit is reached; you can ensure that you know everything that is occurring with your account and you can stop it before the damage is done.

Make sure that you have a good security package containing an anti-virus, along with malware, trojan, worm and script stoppers, firewalls and more, with which to block IP addresses that may be trying to access your computer and prevent downloads of files that can leave your hard drive vulnerable to hackers.

McAfee has a great security software package, as well as, “Symantec’s, Norton Security Suite. If you have a business, make sure that all of your servers are protected with a good security product, along with each and every individual computer. Get a good package on your computer and activate all of its functions.  Keep it updated weekly, if possible, so that you are never without protection.

Be sure to only conduct your transactions from secure computers. Doing your online banking by iPhone or any other smart phone is not a good idea.  No one, yet, really has a good security package for smart phones and these can very easily be hacked with pretty ordinary equipment.

The advent of broadband and wireless routers increases the chance of your transactions and personal bank information being stolen because people who may have access to certain equipment can easily tap into your online session through wireless routers and Broadband, is exactly what the name says, a broad range of bandwidths. Any hacker out there, with the minimum equipment, can locate your band and attack your computer while you are doing your banking.  This makes it all the more essential to have more than one firewall.

If you use a browser, such as Internet Explorer 8, be sure to activate any security and password features that will block intruders from gathering your personal information, login ids, passwords, auto-fill data, etc. 

Check your security package for additional protection. Even if you log on and have to re-enter your login, password and answer your security questions more than once, it’s worth that additional protection. Remember, thieves are out there waiting for you to get impatient with your online session. If you get interrupted, log off of your banking session, close the browser window and log back on at another time. Never walk away with your bank account exposed to someone else.

Change your passwords and security questions frequently. Hackers will go to nearly any length just to discover your password, including utilizing computer programs that generate random letters and numbers or combinations of these.  Frequently changing your passwords and security questions will definitely keep you two to three steps ahead of any hacker.

Protect your paperwork; anything like statements, correspondence, check books, savings passbooks, etc., should never be left in the open where anyone can read your information. Whenever you are done with your banking statements, etc., be sure to shred them well with a good cross-cut shredder.

Never give out information over the phone or in emails to anyone. The bank has this information and while they may ask you to verify some information for security purposes, they are not likely to ask for your complete social security number or account number. Usually, the last 4 digits of the social security number, a 5 digit zip code or simply answering a security question or two will suffice to verify that you are the owner of the account.

Pay close attention to the look of your bank’s website, as well as, to the ATM machines that you use. Any changes to the website should be posted on the home page before you even log on, so that you will know that the website has been modified.  Hackers are very clever and do have the capacity to copy your bank’s website information and re-direct you to exactly wherever they want to you go where they can collect your personal information with you still thinking that your online transactions are safe. 

If the look of your bank’s or credit card companies website has changed and there is no notice before you log on; take the time to make a phone call to the bank and ask if it has been modified. The same is true of your bank’s ATM machine.

Many a thief has found a way to collect ATM information with a small device.  If your ATM screen, buttons or anything looks different; don’t use it until you confirm with the bank that it has been modified.

Lastly, pay close attention to emails, downloaded programs, photos, etc., that you open on your computer.  It’s very easy for thieves to place a Trojan or script into an attachment or link and just opening an email or clicking on a link can be instant identity theft, among other problems.

Many banks and credit card companies will tell you on their website whether or not they include links in their emails. Check their policy pages and add your bank’s fraud reporting email to your address book so that you know when a suspicious email claiming to be from your bank has arrived and you can avoid opening it; report it to your bank’s fraud department instead so that they can have it investigated.

If you receive an email and you are sure that it is from your bank or credit card company, but contains a link or a download; don’t click on it until you have called the company to verify that they sent it to you. Yes, phone calls can be time consuming, but your money and privacy are too valuable to risk by being impatient; always confirm before opening emails or clicking on links.