Pop quiz: What do JP Morgan, eBay, Yahoo and Target all have in common?
That’s right! They’ve all had security breaches in the past few years. Many of us devour news of these headline-making horrors that result in the misappropriation of email addresses, passwords, bank account numbers and other personal information.
What we don’t realize, though, is that we often sabotage the safety of our own banking accounts.
While there are a lot of institutional safeguards in place, you hold some of the keys to protecting your banking accounts. Consider these seven no-nos that you might be committing that put your accounts at risk – and our tips for correcting them:
1. You let your guard down while working online
Working online is so commonplace that it’s easy to not fully engage when responding to online requests. Crooks who go “phishing” count on you multitasking while responding to the “urgent” emails they send in the guise of your bank, credit union and trusted retailers.
Protect yourself: Type the email address you are asked to visit into your browser — don’t click the link! Or, hover your cursor over the link to uncover the full address. If it’s not familiar, don’t click it.
2. You don’t sign off after a banking session
It’s easy to think nothing of leaving accounts open until we shut down the computer. But that is risky. Every time you finish making an online banking transaction, sign out of your account, recommends Key Bank. Also, consider erasing the browser history.
3. Your password and security question are too basic
You know your Social Security number, credit card number and other routinely requested numbers — so protect them. Do not use those numbers or any part of them as passwords. If thieves steal your Social Security number or account number, they likely will try to use those numbers to access your account, according to Bank of America.
Create passwords with eight or more characters that include letters, numerals and symbols, recommends Bank of America. And, of course, use a unique password on your financial site. If you have trouble remembering your passwords, consider using a password manager.
As for security questions and answers, protect yourself by choosing a challenging question — the name of your first pet, Little League team, vacation spot or favorite high school teacher. Make it something that is not easily learned through a Web search.
4. You trust without verifying
If you don’t know the person or company that requests your account information, think twice before sharing it.
Yes, some legitimate businesses routinely ask for such information — but so do criminals. Once crooks have this information, they withdraw money from your account by creating a demand draft — called a “remotely created check” — or creating an electronic transfer, according to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. Verify the identity and reputation of the person and/or company before you give up information.
5. You let crooks access your cellphone
Downloaded cellphone apps can contain malicious codes that snap up personal information and remember keystrokes. “You have no idea who created that app, and very little code-checking goes on,” Julie Conroy McNelley, senior fraud and risk analyst at research firm Aite Group, tells U.S. News & World Report.
The lesson: Either invest in anti-virus software for your telephone or avoid using it for online banking. And if you lose your cellphone, don’t wait before using “Find My iPhone” or Google’s “Device Manager” to locate and wipe the phone of data.
6. You don’t demand extra protection
To enhance security around accounts, some banks offer two-factor authentication, such as a key code or unique image in addition to a password. When looking for a bank, ask if it offers this enhanced security option.
7. You assume a site is safe
You can be doubly certain your information is safe by looking for a lock icon on the browser and verifying that the URL begins with “https.” That indicates you are looking at your account over an encrypted connection.
Do you have ways of keeping your information secure? Share your tips with us in comments below or on our Facebook page.