By John Drachman
“Most people don’t think about security until it’s too late,” says Guemmy Kim, Director of Project Management at Google. Case in point, Ms. Kim continued, is a victim she called “Laura.”
“Laura was at work when she received a text alert confirming a $700 transfer request. She immediately panicked because she hadn’t made the request,” she said. “When she tried to log into her account to cancel the transfer, her password was rejected. She tried the ‘reset my password’ option but found that she access the reset link from her institution.” Laura was able to cancel the transfer with a phone call to the bank, although she ended up being locked out of her account for days. Meanwhile, the hackers also had gotten into her online shopping account and ordered $500 in gift cards.
Laura’s case illustrated an important fact about online fraudsters: they prefer to go after vulnerable individuals because it is easier – not the institutions themselves. Despite headline-grabbing data breaches, financial institutions have a solid record for protecting their customers’ online transactions.
That’s why, according to Bank Savings Reporter, Margarette Burnette, “It is critical to use secure networks, create strong passwords and choose a financial institution that has industry-standard security technology.” For your own peace of mind, here are five ways you can help improve your online financial security and protect your money:
- Apply multifactor authentication. In this case, when you log in, the financial institution requires another piece of information, or factor, to verify yourself. It could be a unique passcode sent to your smartphone as a text message.
- Never review financial information over public Wi-Fi. “If you have to log in while away from home, consider using your cellular data plan instead of Wi-Fi, or a virtual private network, known as a VPN,” Ms. Burnette says. Also, make sure the address on your browser always starts with “https.” The “s” signals that the page is secure.
- Update your anti-virus software. Keep it current for both your home computers and mobile devices.
- Alter passwords regularly. The more complex the password, the better protection it will offer against hackers.
- Request text alerts. If you spot a transaction that looks suspicious, contact your institution immediately.
The Bottom Line
Beyond the steps you can take, it is also important to make sure your financial institution uses industry-standard security protocols themselves. Additionally, COVID stay-at-home routines gave an enormous boost to the popularity of eSignatures on critical documents. Most institutions now use a service like DocuSign or similar industry-leading provider to guarantee security. If you need a hand knowing where to look to learn more about your institution’s security protocols, your financial advisor will be glad to work with you to determine you are receiving the level of protection and encryption your account – and your hard-earned assets – you deserve.
John Drachman is a contributing writer to MyPerfectFinancialAdvisor, the premier matchmaker between investors and advisors. John is an IABC award-winning writer, who applies his 30 years of financial marketing experience toward advancing the dialog between investors and investment professionals.