Online and mobile banking is now woven into many people’s daily lives. It’s fast, easy, and so convenient. But with its benefits come some downsides. One of the biggest negatives is the rising ranks of fraudsters and hackers, who put your money at risk. It’s up to each of us to manage our bank accounts responsibly and use the tools at our disposal to keep our accounts secure.
This guide explains why it’s so important to keep your bank account safe, how to log in to your account safely, which tools that are available to ensure secure banking, and how to recognize fraud. Follow these tips, and you’ll likely reduce the odds of getting hacked or scammed.
Importance of Keeping Your Bank Account Safe
Research shows that almost two out of three Americans are banking online. Much as you may enjoy the convenience of online and mobile banking, you may also be concerned with how to keep your bank accounts safe from criminals and fraudsters.
If your personal and financial information is stolen, the thief could open credit cards using your name. Money can be swiped from your account via fraudulent wire transfers, and you could be inconvenienced for weeks as you close accounts, open new ones, and replace compromised credit and debit cards. Who wants to deal with that kind of stress? No one. So here’s how to help keep your bank accounts safe online.
Tips for Keeping Your Bank Account Safe
Want to do what you can to stymie criminals? We thought so. Here are some ways to keep your bank account safe from fraudulent activity.
Not Accessing Financial Information on Public Wi-Fi
Public WiFi networks offer free access to the internet when you are not at home. It can seem like a gift while you’re on the go, but the connections at coffee shops, restaurants, airports, and hotels are simply not secure.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, public WiFi connections usually involve unencrypted sites, so other users on the network can see what you are doing. It’s easy for hackers to hijack your session and then login with your credentials. Stay safe if you are using public WiFi : Only visit encrypted sites that say “https:” at the start of the URL and show the lock symbol. Also consider setting up a personal virtual private network (VPN) service on your device to add a layer of protection.
Monitoring Auto Payments and Limit Withdrawals
Auto withdrawals occur when you give permission to a service provider to withdraw payments from your bank account on a recurring basis. This requires you to give the company your checking account or debit card information and permission to electronically withdraw money from your account. If you have signed up for automatic bill pay for, say, your utilities or streaming services, then you are familiar with this process.
These auto payments should be closely monitored. Some companies may fail to stop an automatic withdrawal when you request that they do so.
Before you give a company permission to make automatic withdrawals, check that they’re legitimate and trustworthy, ask for written terms of agreement for the automatic payment, watch for overdraft and insufficient funds (NSF) fees, and make sure you know how to stop payments.
Watching Out for Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are ever more prevalent and sophisticated. These scams trick you into providing your personal and banking information that can then be used for fraudulent activity.
For example, you could receive an email, supposedly from your bank, saying there’s been a problem with your account and sharing a link where you are asked to login and update your information. The website you are led to could look just like your bank’s website. If you input your details, hackers now have your login information. A couple of ways to avoid these scams:
• If you get communication that says it’s from your bank and asks you to click a link, don’t. Log into your banking website or app, and check messages there to see what’s going on. Or call your bank to ask if the message is legitimate.
• Hover over the email sender’s address. You may be surprised to see the message is coming from a different identity than the one it’s pretending to be. If that’s the case, don’t click on anything; mark the email as spam.
Safeguarding Your Checkbook, Debit Cards, and Credit Cards
Checkbooks, debit cards, and credit cards still have a place in our increasingly digital and contactless world of banking. They are, however, vulnerable to robbery and other criminal activity. Here are moves that help protect these items and your bank account safe.
1. Keep your checkbook locked away at home; you don’t want to risk anyone getting your bank account and routing number, which is printed on each check. Also don’t leave your wallet, checkbook, or bank cards in your vehicle. It’s bad enough if your car is broken into, but even worse if the thieves find your wallet and credit cards.
2. Report a lost or stolen debit card to your bank immediately to avoid fraudulent charges.
3. Keep an eye on your mail. Thieves may steal your credit card bills and then apply for a new one in your name. Or if you’ve ordered checks, they could steal those. Alert your bank if they don’t arrive on time and report the checks as lost; if they are stolen and get used, report identity theft.
4. Never make a check payable as cash until you are ready to cash the check. If you fill it out and then lose it, whoever finds it gets the cash.
5. Watch for skimming devices that steal information from your debit or credit card. These devices are most commonly placed in ATMs or the card slots at gas pumps; you can learn to identify skimmers because they appear raised and bulkier than normal. Put your card in, and your card number and PIN code can be stolen, giving the criminal access to your account.
Not Pre-signing Blank Instruments or Documents
It may seem temptingly convenient to sign some checks for future use, without putting the name of the payee, just so you’re better prepared. Or, you might write the name of the payee but not the amount if someone is delivering the check for you. If the check is lost, whoever finds it can add in their name and pay the check into their account. Never pre-sign a blank check or a one that’s lacking a payee and dollar amount.
Don’t assume that your banking is happening like clockwork. Instead, check your balance regularly and make sure there aren’t unexpected transactions. Digital banking makes this process much easier because you can access your bank account at any time by a website or app and see what’s going on. The idea here is to be vigilant about suspicious activity and catch any issues early.
Not Sharing Bank Details
Once in a blue moon, it may be necessary to share bank details with a close family member, perhaps in an emergency. But otherwise, simply don’t let anyone know the login details for your bank account. The same holds true for your credit card; don’t share your account number, expiration date, or CVV code. If these numbers fall into the wrong hands, they can allow fraudsters to hack your finances.
Choosing Unique and Strong Passwords
Criminals love nothing more than a password that’s super simple to figure out, like your birthdate or, say, “password123.” To help secure your online banking life, follow the following advice:
• Don’t use personal information, such as your name, your pet’s name, or your address. It’s too obvious for hackers.
• Use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters in your password.
• Don’t use the same password for multiple logins.
• Change your passwords regularly.
Enabling Two-Factor Authentication
Financial institutions increasingly use two-factor authentication, which adds an additional layer to protection and security. With two-factor authentication, you typically log in in the usual way but then need to pass a second level of security. You may be asked to enter a special code to verify your identity using a free authenticator app that you downloaded when you set up your account. If your bank offers this technology, opt in. It can help deter hacking.
Signing Up for Banking Alerts
Go ahead and turn on banking alerts. Notifications such as email, app, or text alerts can help you protect your bank account. These alerts are sent in the event of new credit and debit transactions, failed logins, password changes, and outgoing wire transfers. If there is fraudulent activity on your account, you’ll be notified right away and can take action.
Online banking is convenient, but it can have risks, such as getting hacked or scammed. You can fight back by managing your digital and physical banking assets to help protect your finances. From storing your checkbook safely to knowing how to avoid phishing and skimming, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk.
Keeping your money safe is a priority at SoFi, and so is growing it. Sign up for our Checking and Savings with direct deposit, and you’ll earn a competitive APY, pay no account fees, and get access to your paycheck up to two days early.
What is the best way to keep my bank account safe?
Keep your bank account safe by protecting your bank cards, checks, and your digital and mobile accounts. Use strong passwords for logins, two-factor authentication, and avoid accessing your bank account over public WiFi. Sign up for text and email alerts, and if you lose a debit or credit card or suspect fraudulent activity, contact your bank immediately.
How can I protect the money in my bank account?
The money in your bank account is vulnerable to hackers and fraudsters. To protect it, manage your passwords well, never give your banking details to anyone, and take the time to verify all your transactions. If you don’t recognize a withdrawal, contact your bank.
Where is the safest place to keep your money?
Bank accounts are safe and FDIC-insured, but there are other options. For instance, U.S. Treasury bonds are considered one of the safest places to invest and to keep your money because they are low risk and provide an annual return.
SoFi members with direct deposit can earn up to 4.20% annual percentage yield (APY) interest on Savings account balances (including Vaults) and up to 1.20% APY on Checking account balances. There is no minimum direct deposit amount required to qualify for these rates. Members without direct deposit will earn 1.20% APY on all account balances in Checking and Savings (including Vaults). Interest rates are variable and subject to change at any time. These rates are current as of 4/25/2023. There is no minimum balance requirement. Additional information can be found at http://www.sofi.com/legal/banking-rate-sheet.
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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
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