GUEST POST: 4 Ways to Protect Your Financial Data

[FPMD: I'm a fan of fintech, but as we are all frequently reminded by the news, the convenience comes at a cost.  The following guest post is provided by Diamond Grant of eHealthInformer.  We have no financial relations.]  

The internet has made it easier for us to keep an eye on our bank account, save money and even invest online.  Yet with it comes more chances for risk.  Cyber criminals have created millions of different malware programs designed to steal your financial data.  For many victims, the banks or credit card companies are usually fast enough to notice suspicious activity.  In these cases, you just have to go through the hassle of replacing your card.  If you’re unlucky, though, it could lead to thousands of dollars in bogus charges which can affect your credit score and even job prospects.

Luckily, there’s no reason you can’t protect your financial data. While there’s no 100 percent foolproof method, these steps can help keep you a little more secure.

Check for Secure Websites

As convenient as online shopping is, it is also one of the biggest targets for cyber criminals. When purchasing something from a new site (or even an old trusted one) always check for security. Secure sites start with an https and often have a key or closed padlock in the status bar. And if you’ve ever done online shopping, you’ll also know many stores also brandish trust seals like Norton Secured or Verisign to show their site is safe. If the site you’re visiting doesn’t have these bare minimums, you might want to move along to a different shop.

Be Careful When Using Public WiFi 

It doesn’t matter if you’re using the WiFi at the library or your favorite Starbucks, the connection isn’t secure.  That’s why they’re perfect targets for hackers.  When using these networks, the best thing to do is avoid accessing personal sites such as your bank or investment account.  If you plan on checking it regardless, at least use a Virtual Private Network to protect your privacy.  These allow you to create a secure connection and encrypt your communication so no one can see what you’re doing.

Secure Your Accounts

It can be a hassle to remember multiple passwords, but it’s one of the best ways to keep your accounts safe.  When creating a password, make sure to use a mixture of numbers, lowercase and uppercase letters, and special characters.  Additionally, when creating your security questions, make sure to choose answers that others cannot easily find on your social media accounts.  Also, make sure to update your passwords if you think your accounts have been compromised.

Don’t Click on Suspicious Links or Download Questionable Attachments

Personal information is worth a lot of money on the black market, that’s why cyber crime continues to rise.  The most common attack method is a phishing email.  These emails have become increasingly sophisticated and can easily bypass filters and anti-virus programs.  More often than not, they look like they’ve come from a legitimate source such as your boss or friend and try to get you to click on a link.

So how can you identify a phishing email?  Here are several tips:

  • Check the email address carefully.  Often the “from” address will be unofficial but very similar to one you know.
  • There’s an urgent call to action to get you to click on a link.  Maybe it’s saying that your account has been compromised or closed.  If the email is from an account you use, call the customer service line to confirm the email is legitimate.
  • The link goes to a fake website.  Carefully check the URL of the site if you’ve actually clicked on the link.  Often, fraudsters carefully design the site to actually look like the real one.  The big tipoff is the URL.

Protecting your financial data is more important than ever before.  Consider this, in total consumers lost $158 billion to cybercrime worldwide.  That’s a pretty big chunk of change.  These simple steps can help protect your finances and save you something even more important – your peace of mind!

Are you following any of these steps? If not, how are you protecting your financial data?

Guest author Diamond Grant of eHealthInformer is a freelance tech writer with an interest in personal finance. She believes technology can complement an already strong financial plan or help get people on the right track.