One of the biggest challenges most of us face in a world connected by technology is that it’s so easy for your financial information to become available to everyone else. Your financial information can be used to make fraudulent purchases, open credit accounts in your name, or take other actions without your consent.
Target was recently sued for their data breach and offered a $10 million settlement to customers who were affected.
This proves how vital it is to keep your financial information secure and be as careful as possible.
While it’s practically impossible to guarantee your financial information will never be stolen, here’s how you can reduce the chances you’ll become a victim.
Be Careful Where You Share Information
Your first step is to be careful about where you share information.
It’s crazy what people post online these days, thinking it won’t have any consequences. Even if you think everything is “private” don’t put your personal info like address and phone number. And be careful with your birth date! Apparently you can delete your birth date on Facebook, but it will still appear in online appointment apps like Google calendar for all your contacts to see.
Don’t give out personal information over text message or instant messaging. And don’t respond to emails (most likely fraudulent phishing emails) asking for your account numbers and passwords.
If you use PayPal, it’s likely you receive a lot of emails from senders saying they are PayPal and want you to log in with your info. But if you look closely at the sender’s email address, it’s likely to be something like Paypal1@gmail.com. This should be cause for concern as all legit emails will have the URL in the email (like firstname.lastname@example.org). Be sure to read the email carefully, look for the address and phone number, as well as the URL. This can typically help spot a copycat spammer.
Don’t give out information to people over the phone, as you never know who is listening. Most banks don’t need you to provide an entire account number or Social Security Number. Normally, a few digits is sufficient for identification purposes. Before you give out financial information, think twice.
Whether it’s a fake charity soliciting a “donation” or someone at the doctor’s office asking for your Social Security Number, really consider whether you want to give out this information. Do they really even need to know this? And certainly don’t give your personal financial information to someone you know only online.
Beef Up Your Cybersecurity
Consider your financial vulnerabilities and beef up your cybersecurity accordingly. Make sure your virus protection software and firewall software is up to date and properly protecting your computer.
Password protect your home Wi-Fi network, and be wary of completing financial transactions on public networks. In fact, if you are using a public network that doesn’t require any security at all, avoid engaging in financial transactions altogether. Don’t log in to any bank accounts, email accounts, or any other important sites.
Instead, wait until you’re in a more secure area and then use a secure browser with SSL encryption so your transmissions are encrypted. You can also benefit by checking for the “lock” icon or the “s” at the end of “http” in the address bar in order to verify you are sending information securely.
Also, consider what information you store on a mobile device or on your laptop. Avoid storing sensitive information on your laptop or any other device that can easily be stolen. Outfit your smart phone with an app that allows you to automatically lock it down or remotely erase the information it contains.
Limit the Information out There
One of the best ways to limit the amount of personal information that gets out there is to use a third-party payment processor like PayPal.
Another option is to have temporary credit card numbers created for online shopping. This can be a good way to avoid letting others get access to your actual credit card account. After one to three purchases, the number no longer works, so it becomes useless to would-be identity thieves.
You can also protect some of your information by choosing to use one particular method of payment. This limits the damage that can be done if someone does get hold of a credit card account number. You have to deal with canceling only one account.
Limit the places where your checking account information is provided, particularly online (don’t use a debit card), since that can often be the messiest account to “fix” when it has been compromised.
Try These Security Apps
It’s very common for individuals to not only use a simple password, but the same password for all websites. Instead, it’s recommended to have a unique password for each site, service or financial account you use. In addition, passwords shouldn’t be your dog’s name, but opt for a long (8–15 characters) random password for each.
- 1Password is a password manager that makes creating and managing random passwords easy.
- Lookout is a free anti-virus and anti-spyware app for mobile devices that can protect you phone in the event it’s lost or stolen.
- LastPass creates some of the strongest passwords by putting together random numbers, letters and characters.
Use Two-Factor Authentication
Add an extra layer of security by using two-factor authentication apps and services. This is basically when you have two different kinds of touch points to authenticate you’re the correct user before you can access any data.
For example, a lot of banks use two-factor authentication by sending you a text message with a code to input when logging into your bank account. This adds an extra layer of security. Check out this list of websites and apps that use two-factor authentication.
Readers: What are your best tips for keeping your financial information secure?