I love to respond to reader questions, and this is one I hear a lot! In these days where even unthinkable places get hacked, is it really safe to bank online?
First of all, if you are going to do any form of banking online, recognize that YOU might be the weakest link. One of the worst mistakes you can make is to use a bad password. By this I mean a password that is:
- Not unique. (You just think I don’t know you.)
- Not strong, meaning it lacks a good mix of numbers, letters (upper & lower case), & symbols, and has fewer than 12 characters.
- Not kept in a secure place.
- Shared with anyone, because you don’t know if they will guard it with their life!
Next, be careful where you click! Phishing scams are a primary way for hackers to obtain your account and password information. Sometimes you might see a very similar website pop up when you Google your bank name. Don’t just look at the listing title, look at the website name below it. You have to be a savvy user to know what is legitimate and what is not. At other times you may get an email ‘from your bank’ that really isn’t, but looks like it is. It asks you to click a link and log on to do something, but the link takes you to a look-alike site that then captures your real login information. It is safer to know the website name and just go there and bookmark it yourself for future use. Always be sure you see the padlock or key icon next to the website address in your browser, and the address should start with https://.
As for mobile banking, I would still be a little cautious. Most people don’t have enough security on their phones, and don’t treat them like the keys to the kingdom that they are. If you do use mobile banking, download the app from your bank’s website and don’t access your account through a browser. Never use a public WIFI connection for banking or financial transactions.
When you consider that banks don’t exist in a vacuum, and they have to transmit your private information electronically all the time, you realize that just because you don’t bank online doesn’t mean that your information isn’t online. (That was a lot of double negatives!) We live in an electronic world. Every time you swipe a debit card, you are essentially banking online. If you deposit a check, the branch sends a transaction that eventually gets to both the receiving and the sending bank(s) & accounts. It is all done digitally, with very strong security measures! If the bank itself gets hacked, as JP Morgan did recently, it really doesn’t matter if you are an online banking customer or not. The main thing for consumers is not to be lackadaisical about your own password security.
Personally, I have used online banking for more years than I can recall, and have never had an issue. But I do not recommend it for anyone with cognitive issues, or those who have not used the internet much. There are too many ways to be tricked and too many increasingly sophisticated tricksters in the world.
If you have a non-personal question, email me at AskJanis@PaperTigressPFC.com. I would rather answer reader concerns in Tigress Tales than try to guess what interests you!