It’s not surprising to see digital banking continue to grow, considering nearly everything else we do is accessible online. Over the past several years, online and mobile banking has grown as the primary banking method by almost 25%, according to the FDIC. It’s not hard to imagine that growth continuing this year, especially as the pandemic closed many branches temporarily and people generally trying to avoid risk. That’s not to say people aren’t visiting branches – they are. In fact, 80% of households that used digital banking as their primary banking resource still visit branches. But, the growth is a clear indicator that the convenience of online banking is real, and with banks providing many of their services online and through mobile apps, customers are taking advantage.
Of course, as with other online activities, online banking comes with risks if you’re not careful. Banks take security seriously and ensure they have the best security measures in place to protect your accounts. But, there are two sides to every transaction and, if you’re not practicing safe online banking habits, you could be exposing your information to hackers.
Here are a few tips to help you keep you digital banking information secure.
No sharing – Your personal and banking information is yours; keep it that way. If you get a call or email from someone asking for sensitive information, it’s very likely a scam. Even if you think there’s a chance it’s a legitimate request, hang up (or don’t respond to the email). Look up the company’s phone number and call them to confirm. Remember that your bank will never call asking you for your card numbers, security codes, PIN numbers, or other sensitive information.
WiFi security – Make sure you have followed best practices for home WiFi, including using a strong, unique password. It’s a good idea to leave that network for you immediate family’s use. Most modern WiFi routers allow you to easily set up a separate guest network for others to use (make sure to use a different password for the guest network).
Public WiFi – Quite simply, don’t do it. There’s too much risk and limited security on most public networks. They are meant to enable access to the internet, but they are typically not safe for financial transactions. If you have access to a VPN, use that or your mobile network if you have to make banking transactions before your get home.
Passwords – Just as you do for your WiFi, use strong, unique passwords for your online and mobile banking apps. Not all sites use the same high levels of security as banks. Using unique passwords means that, even if one password is stolen from a site with weaker security, your banking information will not be exposed. Check our post on creating strong passwords to help.
Sign out – Remember to sign out of your online banking accounts when done to avoid exposing your accounts in the event your devices are compromised.
P2P payments – There are many great tools for easily sending and receiving money from friends or family members. It’s a smart habit to limit your P2P activity to people you know and trust explicitly. If someone asks you to pay for a purchase using a P2P product, you should think twice about it. These options are great for quickly sending money to someone, such as when splitting a bill, but they don’t offer you recourse for recovering lost funds. On the other hand, other payment options, like credit cards and digital payment platforms like PayPal, Google Pay, and others, offer fraud protection (check before you use them to make sure you understand what is covered and what isn’t).
Mobile security – Even if you’ve secured your home devices, don’t forget your smartphones. Treat your mobile devices just as you would a laptop or desktop with good security software. Many security solutions available for consumer use package mobile security apps in their solutions. If you subscribe to security software, check to see if it comes with a mobile solution. As with your home devices, always make sure your security software is current. Consider allowing your security software to update automatically to make sure you always have the latest protection.
Firewalls – Make sure you have an active firewall for your broadband connection to reduce risk. Your operating system or security software should include a firewall option that you can enable.
Contact info – Make sure you update your bank and your mobile accounts if you get new contact information. It will help your bank communicate with you and will make sure you continue receiving important information, including your account activity alerts.
Monitor your accounts – Banks have good fraud detection in place to protect your accounts, but cyber criminals are also good at what they do. Checking your accounts regularly can double down on your bank’s efforts and spot any questionable transactions. It’s easy to do with your online portal or mobile app and won’t take you much more time than checking email. You can also set up automated alerts via text or email to let you know each time a transaction is made. Alerts It will help not only help you manage your spending, but will alert you immediately of any suspicious account activity so you can contact your bank and take appropriate steps.
Online banking has become extremely convenient. With all the digital tools available for many of your banking needs, you will rarely have to physically visit a branch if you don’t want to or are just not able to. But, you need to make sure you’re taking precautions and following best practices for online activity to avoid putting your financial information at risk.