As most consumers who have managed their finances via online banking and/or mobile banking can attest, these two 21st century technological advancements make paying bills, depositing checks, transferring funds between accounts and more extremely quick and easy. (This is likely a major part of the reason that, according to a 2021 American Bankers Association survey, 70% of Americans name mobile and online as their preferred methods of banking.) And with an array of security protections built into most banks’ mobile apps and websites, the two modern banking practices are, by and large, also very safe.
But by taking some added precautions of their own, consumers can make their online and mobile banking experiences even safer — and their chances of falling victim to any banking-related cybercrimes even lower. To take the protection of your financial assets a step beyond the security measures built into the banking apps and banking websites you use, consider employing these eight tactics when you bank online or via your mobile device:
- Use strong and unique passwords — Sure, it makes online life easier to choose a simple-to-remember password and employ it for all of your online accounts. But a simple password is also easier for cybercriminals to crack. And when the same password is used for multiple online accounts, when a data breach puts one of them out there for hackers to discover, it potentially grants them access to additional personal accounts.
To make your passwords harder for cybercriminals to guess, avoid using personal information like birthdays and family names that could be garnered via your social media accounts or other sources in the public realm.
Further, to make it as hard as possible to crack your password:
- use lengthy passwords that employ more than a single word
- incorporate a mix of lowercase and uppercase letters, as well as numbers and special characters like exclamation points, underscores and tildes
- use a different password for each of your accounts — and especially for finance-focused ones such as banking and stock-trading accounts
- avoid writing your passwords down or including them in emails that a hacker could breach
- … And change your password regularly — To decrease the chances of your passwords being discovered and used by hackers, change them every three to four months. Another strong option is to use a password manager, which can enable you to use much longer, more complicated passwords without having to remember them, all while keeping them highly secure and easily accessible to the user.
- If available, enable multi-factor authentication — Many banks offer multi-factor authentication for banking app and account login. This adds an extra layer of security by sending a unique code via text, email or automated phone call to the account owner when anyone attempts to access the account. And to actually complete the login, the code must be entered, helping protect against unauthorized account access via stolen or otherwise compromised usernames and passwords. If your bank or other financial services provider offers multi-factor authentication, signing up for it is a great way to bolster your account security.
- Keep your software updated — Cybercriminals’ malicious tactics are always evolving, and to protect against the latest ones, software and application makers are constantly updating their platforms and codes to protect against the newest schemes. To ensure that your devices have the latest protections in place, be sure to regularly update your software, including operating systems, antivirus software and your financial apps themselves.
- Avoid banking on public Wi-Fi networks — When you’re on the go, a public Wi-Fi network can deliver a big boost to your digital productivity by providing a speedy connection for your mobile device or laptop. But because you can never be certain who is controlling a shared network or who else is on it, public Wi-Fi can present much greater security risks than your home network or other known and trusted networks.
To avoid unwanted monitoring or access via man-in-the-middle attacks, malicious hotspots, malware, spyware and the like, it’s best to avoid using unknown networks to access your financial accounts. If you must access online or mobile banking services while you’re out and about, though, turning off your device’s Wi-Fi and using your cellular connection instead is a safer option.
- Set up banking alerts — Many financial institutions allow you to set up banking and/or fraud alerts that send you digital notifications when specific account-related activities are detected. These can include such activity as credit and debit card transactions, outgoing wire transfers, failed login attempts, password changes, and the addition of new payees in your online bill pay. By setting up such alerts for your accounts, you can more actively and consistently keep an eye on what’s going on with your accounts, and alert your financial institution when you notice suspicious activity.
- … And monitor your accounts closely — It’s also a good idea to keep a close eye on your account activity by reviewing your banking statements and online transactions regularly. By doing so, you can alert your bank to any suspicious activity more quickly, as well as prevent any fraudsters from making further attempts to steal your money or other assets.
- Watch out for phishing and smishing scams — Most consumers are aware of phishing scams, which attempt to get people to share their personal or financial details — or even send direct payments to fraudsters — by employing fake emails that appear to be from legitimate organizations or institutions. And as texting becomes more commonplace, the practice has spread into the realm of text messages in the form of “smishing.”
To avoid becoming a victim of either of these fraudulent practices, be ever wary of such schemes, and never provide your personal or financial information to anyone who you’re not sure is a legitimate representative of the organization or institution they claim to be working with. Another wise practice is to, rather than following a link sent in an email or text, always type your bank’s web address into your internet browser directly. And rather than providing any sensitive information to someone who has called you on the telephone requesting it, call the organization or institution asking for such information directly via an official phone number, then provide any needed details once you’ve confirmed that you’re speaking with a legitimate company representative.
At The Southern Bank, we pride ourselves on offering friendly, personalized service to all of our customers — and that includes providing guidance when you have questions about any of our banking services. To learn more about our Personal Banking services ranging from Personal Checking and Personal Loans to Savings & Money Market, Certificates of Deposit (CDs), Mortgages and more, check out the Personal Banking page on our website or visit one of our local branches for friendly, in-person service with a smile.