Why is it important to protect your online bank accounts against fraud?
The answer is simple and obvious: They’re your assets, and you want them to be safe. No one wants to have to deal with the consequences of bank account fraud.
By making safety your M.O., you can prevent ill-intentioned people from gaining access to your personal information or accounts for the purpose of committing fraud.
Someone with bad intentions could change your login information, denying you access to your accounts. They could then make fraudulent purchases or transfer money to themselves from your assets.
How can you protect your online bank accounts?
Use strong passwords
When it comes to cybersecurity and bank account fraud, it all starts with your password. Keep in mind the best practices.
- The longer the password, the better. To be almost unbreakable, it needs to be at least 12 characters long. Short passwords related to a birthday (e.g., Paul24) or with a simple string of numbers and letters (“01234” or “abcd”) are too easy to guess.
- The password should mean something that only you can understand. It could, for example, be something you dream about, like “tropicalvacationfreedom32,” or a slightly absurd phrase, like “mydoghas8paws!”
- Never share your login and password with anyone, even if they claim to work at your financial institution.
Use a password manager
Don’t keep a copy of your passwords in your cellphone, a notebook, or an email. This all-too-common practice heightens the risk that an ill-intentioned person will get their hands on your passwords, increasing the potential for bank account fraud.
Use a password manager instead. There are a number of them on the market. A password manager is an online tool that stores all your login information. To access your accounts, all you have to do is enter a “master password,” the only one you’ll have to remember.
Use two-factor authentication
If your financial institution offers two-factor authentication, use it when accessing your online bank accounts. This adds a layer of protection that makes things harder for hackers and can help prevent fraud.
Each time you log in, after entering your credentials, you’ll receive an email or text message that provides you with a unique code. Entering this code allows you to confirm your identity and access your accounts.
Note the importance of having different passwords for your online bank and email accounts. If they’re the same, a fraudster could access your email account to retrieve the identification code.
Be aware of phishing attempts
Computer fraudsters use a number of tactics to try to steal your personal information and assets. “Phishing” is one of them.
Don’t click on a link in an email from an unknown or questionable source, especially if it leads to your online bank accounts. From there, it would be easy for a fraudster to intercept your password. Instead, type in the site address yourself or access it through your financial institution’s app.
Also, never click on a suspicious link or attachment via the web, social media or an email. Without meaning to, you could install malware that targets your banking information on your computer, tablet or cellphone.
Maintain good digital hygiene
Maintaining good digital hygiene, i.e., adopting best practices, also improves your online security.
- Install antivirus software on your workstation to protect it against viruses, spyware, spam and other cyber threats.
- Regularly update your computer, tablet or cellphone as well as your software (especially your antivirus software) and apps. This will prevent malicious software from exploiting vulnerabilities in your equipment and ensure that you have the latest protection available.
- Avoid sharing personal information—especially your banking information—on social media.
- Log out of your session when you’re done using your online bank account. If you don’t log out properly, fraudsters may be able to access your account in certain situations, such as if you’re using a public Wi-Fi network.
- Check your accounts regularly to quickly spot any unauthorized transactions. If there are any, notify your financial institution immediately; they’ll explain the steps to take depending on the situation.
Keep your devices physically secure
If for some reason you leave your devices unattended, even for a few minutes, always lock them so that no one can access your data. To log back in, simply enter your password.
Always use a trusted computer or mobile device when accessing your online bank accounts. Avoid accessing them at a workstation that’s not your own, such as in a library.
Never share your session with others if the username and password for your bank accounts are stored on the computer, as they may log in.
Only use USB sticks or other external devices that you own or that come from a trusted source. They can infect your devices if they contain viruses or malware.
When connecting to Wi-Fi, it’s best to use a secure, non-public network. It’s better to wait until you get home to access your online bank accounts on a Wi-Fi network.
What should you do if you’re a victim of online bank account fraud?
Contact your financial institution as soon as possible to report the fraud. You’ll get instructions on what to do next and will be directed to the right resources. By acting quickly, the experts at your institution may even be able to block the fraudulent transaction.
For more information, see our section on the ABCs of Online Security