Defend against fraud: Five tips to help secure financial information online

Back to Financial Education

It’s convenient to monitor checking and savings account statements online through banking apps, to pay bills online rather than by check, and to shop for what you need from your smartphone. And you can use digital payment methods instead of cold, hard cash. As a result, a lot of personal financial data about you is circulating out there in cyberspace. Transactions are easier, but not always more secure.

So, just how safe is your financial information? Mobile apps, budgeting tools, and online payment systems can make budgeting seamless. But the trade-off for modern expediency is exposure to security breaches, hacking, and identity theft. (Learn more about how you can protect yourself from identity theft.)

According to a 2017 Javelin identity fraud report, more than 6% of buyers in the U.S. were hit by identity fraud in 2016, resulting in nearly $700 million in losses.

Safeguarding your financial information online should be a top priority—and there’s a lot you can do to stack the odds in your favor.

 

  1. Be smart about passwords. Update passwords on a regular basis across all sites where financial information is stored, and make sure those passwords are unique. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts. Online payment systems—for bills, shopping, or banking—should have strong, complicated passwords that are swapped out and replaced monthly. Consider using a password management tool to help keep track. And get creative with security questions. Avoid easy, readily available personal information like your mother’s maiden name or birth date. Come up with trickier ways to prove identity—things only you would know.
  2. Take a cautious approach when using public Wi-Fi sources. Hot spots in coffee shops, libraries, and airports are convenient, but they’re often not secure. Any information sent over these networks could be vulnerable to third parties. Never use unsecured email or unsecured public Wi-Fi hot spots to send personal information, including your Social Security or credit card number. Instead, only connect to trusted networks or virtual private networks (VPNs).
  3. Keep a close eye on banking and credit activity. Make it a habit to check finances online every day to monitor for unexpected changes or suspicious activity. Banking and credit institutions typically have built-in fraud protection and notification systems, but it’s important to stay vigilant and on top of what money’s going in—or out of—those accounts. Set up text alerts with your banking and/or credit institutions so you can be notified of any potentially fraudulent activity in real time.
  4. Speaking of credit, stay on top of that monthly credit report. Check in with your credit report on a monthly basis to make sure everything looks up to date and accurate. If unauthorized accounts or loans have been opened in your name, they’ll be reflected on your credit report. Subscribe to credit monitoring services to track your progress and alert you to any changes so you can quickly address them.
  5. Be mindful of email phishing and unsecured websites/databases. Day-to-day email correspondence and internet searches can create weakened access points for hackers and gaps in security. Cybercriminals use phishing and technical support scams to install malicious software on computers or to steal personal information from machines. Understand what these scams look like and take action immediately to report the incidents to the Federal Trade Commission.

 

Looking for more tips for better credit and money management, and advice for keeping your financial information secure online? Check out more of Comenity’s financial resources.

This page and the information contained herein is for educational purposes only. The information is not intended to provide legal, investment, or financial advice or to indicate the availability or suitability of any product, service, or strategy to your unique circumstances. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a qualified professional. Any links to other websites are included for your convenience only. Comenity does not endorse any product or service, and is not responsible for the accuracy or reliability of the information, made available through such sites.