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9 tips for safe online and mobile banking

There once was a time when an ATM was a thing of wonder. Today, we use online banking without giving it much thought. According to a survey by the American Bankers Association, 40% of Americans use online banks, and of those, 26% opt for mobile banking.

Online banking isn’t just a young person’s game, either. The survey found that almost half of Americans between the ages of 18-29 use mobile banking. For more than half of Americans over age 65, online banking was the first choice.

With so many people conducting bank transactions over their computers or mobile devices, more hackers are trying to steal your money. But there are ways you can protect yourself.

Create a stronger password and change it often

With so many passwords we have to juggle, it’s easy to fall into the familiarity trap. Many people use names of their pets or kids, or the street they grew up on as a child. Avoid those.

In fact, experts says to not even use words at all because hackers will figure them out. Instead, use a series of upper and lower-case letters, numbers and, if the site allows, symbols. The rule of thumb is to change your password every 90 days.

Use two-factor authentication

Sure, it may sound like a drag and add more time to your internet banking experience, but it’s worth it. Almost every bank is different in its use of two-factor authentication.

Some will ask a series of questions that only you know the answers to. Others will email, text or call you with a code to use to log in. With two-factor authentication, hackers may get your password but that added layer of protection likely will thwart them.

Don’t use automatic logins

You can save a lot of time using automatic login, in which both your username and password already are filled in on the sign-in page. But is saving that time worth it if your phone is stolen or your computer is hacked, leading to your money being stolen? No. Don’t use automatic logins.

Lock down your phone

Most people already do this for a number of reasons. No matter why you lock your phone, keep doing it.

Today’s mobile phones use a number of lock down features such as inputting a pin number, replicating a pattern, using facial recognition or applying a thumbprint. If your phone is stolen, this will make it very difficult for thieves to get into important financial information.

Use the bank’s mobile app

It’s easier to hack into a bank’s website, so experts advise downloading and using your bank’s mobile app instead. Mobile apps are better encrypted and less subject to data breaches. Also, make sure to keep those apps updated.

Look at you bank statements or accounts

To make sure you haven’t been hacked, pop onto your bank site frequently to monitor transactions. If you see one you don’t recognize, immediately call your bank. It’s also a good idea to look at your monthly bank statements, whether you get them online or by snail mail.

Avoid using public Wi-Fi

Public Wi-Fi is a perk many of us love. We can check out social media, look at emails or text friends while we wait for our skinny vanilla latte. Remember, however, public Wi-Fi is less secure than private Wi-Fi networks in your home or work because they usually are not encrypted. So for goodness’ sake, don’t conduct any mobile banking or credit card activity while on a public Wi-Fi.

Turn off Bluetooth when not using it

Bluetooth is a great feature, especially if you need to talk to someone while driving. But if you’re not using it, turn it off. Hackers can get into your phone through the Bluetooth feature and take control of your phone.

Sign up for text alerts or emails from your bank

Getting a lot of text messages can be annoying. However, if your bank offers you the options of texting or emailing you in order to send a two-factor authentication code, ask if you changed your password or alert you to suspicious activity, use it. The bank is offering you protection against hackers and you’ll know whether a stranger is trying to get into your account.

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