By Robyn A. Friedman
City & Shore Magazine
Do you bank online? According to the 13th Annual Consumer Trends Survey by Fiserv, a financial services technology firm, eight in 10 U.S. households with internet access now log onto their financial institution’s website to check balances, transfer funds or pay bills – and the number is growing each year.
Many consumers also use their smartphones or tablets to bank. According to Forrester Data, 38 percent of American adults who are online have used their smartphone to bank at least once in the past three months.
It’s easy to understand why online banking is so popular. Consumers today are mobile, connected and social. They want the ability to control their finances effortlessly and instantly, without the hassle of dealing with banking hours.
But there are risks inherent in online banking.
“It’s important that anyone who banks online understands basic security measures to help protect their life savings,” says Mary Harris, a spokeswoman for BankUnited in Miami Lakes.
Harris says that cyber-criminals can be very creative. “Some steal user names and passwords,” she says. “Others wait until the customer logs in and then duplicate their session and make additional withdrawals. Either way, the individuals can have their accounts emptied.”
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) recently released some tips to help consumers bank online safely
Protect your computer. Install anti-virus software and keep it current. Use a firewall as well.
Use the strongest possible authentication to log onto your accounts. Create strong user IDs and passwords, and avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.
Learn about internet safety and how to ensure a website is authentic. Look for the https:// prefix in the web address, and always log off when your transaction is complete.
Be suspicious of unsolicited emails asking you to click on links — even if they appear to come from your financial institution.
Be careful where and how you connect to the internet. Don’t access public Wi-Fi to do your banking.
Keep personal information off social networking sites. Cyber-criminals often use these sites to gather personal information – such as your date and place of birth, pet names, mother’s maiden name — that helps them guess your password.
Take precautions with your mobile device. Keep apps up to date and use a password to protect your device.