In 2018 alone, over 2.5 billion user accounts were hacked. Information including personal details, emails, and bank accounts was compromised. With more people using the Internet every day, hacking and identity theft are becoming a growing danger. As a result, people must learn good security habits in order to ensure the safety of their financial data. This article is a compilation of several tips and habits that will help keep your finances safer and make it harder for others to access.
1. Contact Financial Institutions Directly
If someone contacts you through your phone claiming they are from your financial institution, do not give them any information. Oftentimes, those people are scammers who are trying to steal your identity. However, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between scammers and the real people from the financial institution. That’s why if you need to contact the financial institution, you should do so yourself from the phone number on their website or on the back of your credit card.
2. Shred Documents
Everyone receives financial information electronically and in print. At home, make sure to shred unwanted printed material such as bank statements, credit card statements, or expired credit cards.
3. Limit What You Carry
Do not carry unnecessary credit cards or large bills. Make sure not to carry your social security card as that can compromise your finances and identity if it is stolen. By not carrying too much things on you, you can limit what other people can steal.
4. Protect and Update Your Passwords
Update your passwords regularly and make it hard to guess. Avoid common passwords such as your birthday or the name of your pet. Create passwords that include a minimum of eight letters, numbers, and special symbols. Make sure not to save your passwords on hard drives.
One way people can keep their accounts secure is by using a password manager. A password manager creates different complex passwords for every account. Furthermore, it helps store the information so you won’t have to remember every complex password for every account you own. After generating secure passwords, the password manager stores them in a database encrypted behind a master password. This makes it easier for people as they will only need to memorize one password. However, as with everything online, the servers in password managers can get hacked. Luckily, there are many different password managers, with some storing passwords in the cloud, and some storing passwords locally. You can compare different password managers here and find which one works best for you.
5. Avoid Putting Personal Information On Social Networks
Messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger allow you to send money through the app. Even though it is encrypted, it’s safer to never conduct business transactions over Facebook Messenger. Furthermore, information such as your birthday, your mother’s maiden name, your phone number, or your address may be on social networks such as Facebook or LinkedIn. However, that is exactly the information needed to get into your bank account if you forget your password.
6. Regularly Check Your Credit Reports
The United States government requires the three major credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, to provide a copy of your credit report at no charge once per year. By checking your credit reports, you can see if it was tampered with. You can also sign up for credit monitoring, which will help you check your credit report in real-time. There are many free credit monitoring companies that will send you an alert every time an activity takes place on your credit report. That way, if you get an alert to something you didn’t do, you are aware that you may need to respond to a potential problem.
7. Establish Two-Factor Authentication
Many high-value business bank accounts require users to enter a username and password, as well as a randomly generated code that changes every thirty seconds. You can also use this technology in personal accounts. By downloading an app on your phone such as the Google Authenticator app, logging into your Gmail account will require a six digit code. This prevents hackers from getting into your email as they will need to have access to your phone in order to log into your online accounts. The Google Authenticator app can also secure other apps. If you don’t want to use the Google Authenticator app, there are plenty of other two-factor authentication apps that you can use.
8. Use a Secure, Private Network
When banking online, it is critical to be in a secure setting. You should avoid accessing financial information on a public computer such as a library, school, or work computer. You should also avoid making financial transactions on open Wi-Fi networks, as some may be compromised. When sending financial information online look for security on each website. Those are all signs that the website is secure.
By taking these steps to protect your financial information, you will have more success in the future. Even if it is not very convenient, for financial security, it is worth it in the long run. Many financial security issues can also be solved with common sense. Most people realize that banks do not normally call you and ask for your social security number or credit card number and people know that they shouldn’t post confidential information online. However, there are issues that cannot be solved on common sense alone. That’s why you should remember to take time to educate yourself on security options and be proactive in protecting yourself from hackers and identity theft.