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Community Corner

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Protect your bank account from fraud in 5 steps

Follow these simple tips from digital security experts to prevent identity theft by safeguarding your bank account. Online and mobile banking have many advantages, from helping you deposit a check to making a bill payment. While enjoying the benefits of online banking and digital finance tools, it’s important to keep security and how to protect your bank account from fraud top-of-mind. That’s because cybercriminals are a growing threat, especially as they use more sophisticated methods in an attempt to steal personal information online.

In 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation received an average of nearly 1,300 cybercrime complaints every day with more than $3.5 billion in losses to individuals and businesses. That same year, the Federal Trade Commission reported more than 650,000 cases of identity theft—when criminals assume a person’s identity to make purchases or transactions—marking a 46% jump from the year before.
From fake emails that ask you to confirm your username and password to malware that swipes your information when you’re on public Wi-Fi, scammers can use a number of techniques to try to access your bank account.

So how can you protect your bank account from fraud, scams and identity theft? If you take these steps, you can help enhance your bank account security and bank online with confidence.

 

1. Use unique passwords for every account

  • You probably know that having a strong password is important. But as you work to protect your bank account from hackers, one password, no matter how strong it is, may not cut it. What’s most important about passwords isn’t strength or guessability, but that the passwords are not the same across accounts,” he says.
  • Update your passwords on a regular basis
  • Get creative with security questions. Consider thinking beyond the truth, Weisman says. The honest answer to many security questions can be found through online research by a cybercriminal.

2. Be cautious of public Wi-Fi

  • From your favorite coffee shop to your local library, public Wi-Fi is available all over. But are public Wi-Fi networks safe to use? Weisman says it depends on what you’re doing online. If you’re browsing the news or reading blog posts, it’s probably fine, he says. If you’re doing anything that requires login information, such as signing in to your online bank account, it’s best to avoid such activity, he adds. Why? When you use public Wi-Fi, the open connection could allow cybercriminals to potentially grab your username and password as they pass between you and your bank website, Weisman explains.

3. Update your software regularly

  • If you ignore those pesky software update notifications that pop up on your devices, you may want to reconsider. You could be putting yourself at risk if your device isn’t updated. That’s because hackers search for security holes in systems, Grossman says.
  • Keeping your software updated and patched can also help safeguard you from phishing, a common email scam where fraudsters attempt to obtain data (like passwords and credit card information) by posing as a trustworthy company. When your software is up to date, you will be protected from exposure to malicious software you inadvertently download due to phishing.

4. Install ad blockers

  • If the ads on your screen seem too good to be true, they might be—even when you’re on a legitimate website. Malvertising, where cybercriminals create ads infected with malicious codes, is another scam that can leave your bank account exposed.
  • How does malvertising work? Maybe you see an ad offering a free program. Once you click on the infected ad, malware may be downloaded to your device that can potentially steal information about your identity, Weisman says. In some cases, loading the webpage with the corrupted ad is enough to trigger an attack.
  • But there’s an easy way to avoid malvertising and protect your bank account from hackers: installing ad blockers. Many ad-blocking tools are free and easy to download. By blocking ads, your chance of interacting with an infected ad is removed, Weisman says.

5. Be Wary of Phishing Scams

  • Phishing is one of the most common methods identity thieves use to gain access to personal and financial information. This kind of scam usually involves tricking you into giving up your information.
  • Phishing scams can take different forms, but they’re often email or text scams. For example, you might get an email that looks like it came from your bank, telling you that you must log in to your account and update your information.
  • You click the link and log in to what appears to be a legit site but is a dummy site. Or, clicking a link downloads tracking malware to your computer, allowing identity thieves to log your keystrokes.
  • It is important to scrutinize closely any emails that request financial or personal information.

Here are some tips for avoiding online banking phishing scams:

  • Verify the sender’s email address. Call your bank and ask if it sent you an email. Verify the email address that was used.
  • Hover over links. Hovering over a link inside an email can reveal where it will take you.
  • Don’t share personal details. If you get an email from your bank asking for information, call your local branch or customer service to verify that it’s legitimate before sharing any details.
  • Never provide your online banking UserID over the phone
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