Many of us regularly shop and conduct financial transactions online. However we often hear stories of hackers and wonder if our information is really secure. Here are some tips for maintaining security of your financial information online:
1. Make sure you are in a secure connection before using your bank website or entering a credit card. This means no public wi-fi spots, or any unsecured wi-fi connection. Hackers can easily track information entered over unsecured networks. This means your home network should always have a password.
2. Make passwords nice and complex with extra long strings of capital letters, numbers, symbols and no dictionary words. Each website should have a unique password. How to do this? There are some great (and free) password managers available to handle all of your passwords for you so that you only remember one password (and make sure that is long and one you can remember). I like LastPass. Lastpass will do an assessment on your passwords and user names to tell you how secure they are and if they were in any database known to have been accessed by hackers. Then you can update these passwords and get a new assessment to see how secure your login information is.
3. Keep credit card numbers private. Some banks (such as Citibank) offer virtual card numbers, which gives you temporary credit card numbers to use for the different stores you shop at. These numbers can be created to work only for a short time or only up to a certain amount. Therefore if someone hacks your card number, the risks are limited to that allowance. You can also use this service if you need to give your card number to someone for a one-time transaction and don't want it to be used again. Note - most credit cards offer fraud protection so make sure you get this for any card you use.
4. Create a dedicated email address for your finances. Many people use their main email address to conduct financial business: receiving notices, as a log-in etc. However this email address is generally public and can be found online or from one of the many mailing lists you are subscribed to. Having a private email address from which you communicate with all of your financial institutions and conduct transactions will give you an added level of security and separates the risk of someone accessing your financial information if they gain access to your main email.
These steps take some time to setup but are valuable so that you are less vulnerable to hacking and fraud. Keep up to date and stay ahead of the security curve to protect your financial information!