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  • Writer's pictureBurton Kelso, Tech Expert

How Can I Keep My Banking Accounts Safe From Hackers?

Computer and Tech Tips Blog

If you're reading this blog, you probably bank online. It's so darned convenient to be able to sit on a computer or pull out your smartphone to check your balance, transfer funds, and deposit checks. While online banking has made life easier for you to stay on top of your finances, it also makes it easier for thieves to see what's going on with your money and even help themselves to your hard-earned cash. Banks do their job to make sure your accounts are safe, but you need to make sure you're doing your part as well. Here are some quick and easy tips to help you keep your online accounts safe and secure from cybercriminals.

1. Choose a financial institution that uses industry-standard security. If you're like most people you want to use credit unions or banks that can offer you minimum fees and great interest rates. You also need to add robust security to your wish list. Industry-standard security with financial institutions includes multifactor authentication which includes, your user name and password as well, another means of proof that you're the account holder such as sending a passcode or text message to your smartphone. Another practice they employ is to automatically log you out of your account after periods of inactivity. Most of the larger banks and financial institutions employ these methods for all of their account holders. If your bank doesn't offer multifactor authentication, you need to move to another bank.

2. Don't trust links to visit your bank or financial institution. Criminals love to send out phishing emails and with all of the information they can gather about you from the dark web, it's easy for them to impersonate a representative from your bank. Most phishing emails claim there is a problem with an account with a link to make it convenient to log into your account to fix the problem. Behind the link, thieves are waiting to steal your banking credentials. To avoid this, always open your favorite web browser and enter the URL to your bank. This will help you avoid one of the favorite tricks crooks use to get access to your data.

3. Connecting to Public Wifi to Access Your Bank Is a No-No. Not all public WiFi is bad, but why should you take a risk? Using your computer and devices on public wifi puts you at risk to have criminals steal your information. If you're out and about and you need to log into one of your financial accounts, use your smartphone or tablet connected only to your cell phone network. Your cellular connection is a secure connection and will allow you to check on your finances without risking leaking your information.

4. Monitor your accounts on a regular basis. One of the best ways to keep your accounts safe is to check your transactions regularly. I know most of you probably log into your financial accounts to see if there is money in your accounts, but you also need to make sure there aren't any irregular transactions occurring The only way to make absolutely sure is to check your account balances and transaction history regularly and make sure your money isn't going anywhere it isn't supposed to. If you see strange suspicious activity, change your account password, and contact your bank immediately.

5. Change Your Passwords Like your Underwear. Most banks and financial institutions require you to create strong passwords, but you need to change them every few months. Doing so will protect you if your bank gets breached and your login information is leaked to the dark web. Criminals will sit on passwords for months before attempting to use them to log into accounts. If you get into the habit of changing yours every few months, you will stay ahead of cyber thieves.

6. Enable text alerts. If your financial institutions allow you to enable text alerts for your accounts to notify you of low balances and large transactions, do it immediately. These alerts allow you to contact the bank immediately if you see strange activity on your account.

7. Keep your devices updated. Hackers love outdated smartphones, tablets, and computers. It makes it easier for them or their software to get access to your devices. Updating doesn't mean you have to go out and purchase new technology every 18 months, but it does mean downloading the latest operating systems and updates to keep your gadgets secure from cyber threats. Whenever a new update comes out for your device, download it immediately.

I know most of the tips I've shared are common sense, but it is always a good idea to stay on top of your financial accounts. If your money disappears, it's gone forever. If for some reason you are a victim of fraudulent activity on your accounts, you can dispute unauthorized charges for 60 days after the date of your bank statement.

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