Internet banking and other online financial services are often easy-to-use and convenient options. There are risks, however, when managing money on the World Wide Web, because identity thieves are always finding new ways to use computer technologies as scamming tools. The good news? The right information can help you protect your accounts and keep your online banking activity secure.
Website encryption is an important aspect of Internet safety. Encryption allows for the transmission of private information by establishing a safe connection. When you’re on a website, look at the address bar; you should see a specific icon (such as a lock when using Internet Explorer) that indicates a safe connection. If you click on the icon, you should be able to get information about the website owner or organization. You may also see different colors in the security status bar indicating the level of security.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.gov), “Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personally identifying information, like your name, Social Security number, or credit card number, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes.”
Here are some tips for protecting yourself online, compliments of TechAdvisory.org:
- Equip your computer with the right security software and update it regularly.
- Fill out personal information only on sites you trust. Also check the company’s URL and look for information and icons (such as a lock icon in or near the toolbar) that indicate your connection is secure. Phishing sites sometimes look perfectly legitimate, so when in doubt, refrain from using a site altogether.
- Create strong passwords. The more complex your passwords are, the harder they are to hack. Don’t pick obvious passwords like your birthday, and be sure to use a combination of both letters and numbers.
- Use only secure wireless networks. Networks that require passwords can help prevent hackers from using your connection to tap into your system.
Tony Bradley, author of Essential Computer Security: Everyone’s Guide to E-mail, Internet, and Wireless Security also has some valuable suggestions:
- Destroy digital data. When you sell, trade or dispose of your computer system, use a product like Shred XP to make sure data on hard drives is completely destroyed. Simply deleting it yourself isn’t enough. You can also buy a shredder for CDs, DVDs or tapes that contain financial information.
- Check your credit report annually. It’s possible to get a free look at your credit report once per year, so be sure to review it for suspicious activity or accounts you aren’t aware of.
With a little expert advice and some common sense, you’ll be able to better protect your money online. Identity thieves are savvy when it comes to the Internet, but with the right tools, you can certainly outsmart them.