On­line bank­ing safety tips

The Mercury News Weekend - - CONSUMER GUIDE - METRO CREATIVE CON­NEC­TION

In the dig­i­tal era, many er­rands that once re­quired leav­ing the house can be con­ducted from the com­forts of home. Gro­ceries and meals can be or­dered on­line and de­liv­ered to con­sumers’ doorsteps, while bills can be paid on­line, sav­ing men and women from hav­ing to drive to their nearby post of­fice.

On­line bank­ing has rev­o­lu­tion­ized the way peo­ple man­age their money. In­vestors can buy or sell stocks with the click of a mouse, and money can be moved across ac­counts just as eas­ily and in­stantly. Many con­sumers now even do their bank­ing on their mo­bile phones. In fact, a 2016 study from the Fed­eral Re­serve found that 67 per­cent of mil­len­ni­als use mo­bile bank­ing, sug­gest­ing that mo­bile bank­ing is the wave of the fu­ture.

While on­line or mo­bile bank­ing makes it easy for con­sumers to man­age their money, it is also po­ten­tially much riskier than in-per­son bank­ing at a fi­nan­cial in­sti­tu­tion. Un­seen hack­ers and thieves are lurk­ing on­line and in places where Wi-Fi is open and free, so on­line and mo­bile bank­ing en­thu­si­asts must ex­er­cise cau­tion when ac­cess­ing their ac­counts. Sign up for twofac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion: Some banks and credit card com­pa­nies now pro­vide two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion, and some may even in­sist their cus­tomers use it. Two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion re­quires two forms of ver­i­fi­ca­tion be­fore users can log into their ac­counts. The first might be the tra­di­tional user­name and pass­word, while the sec­ond might be a tem­po­rary code texted or emailed to users af­ter they log into their ac­counts. Some con­sumers may feel two-fac­tor au­then­ti­ca­tion is te­dious and slow, but it is an ef­fec­tive safety mea­sure that should only de­lay on­line or mo­bile bank­ing by a few sec­onds.

Use only se­cure net­work con­nec

tions: Pub­lic Wi-Fi can be con­ve­nient, but con­sumers should never use such con­nec­tions to do their on­line or mo­bile bank­ing. The Amer­i­can Bankers As­so­ci­a­tion sug­gests con­sumers al­ways do their on­line bank­ing via their own pri­vate home net­works. Con­sumers who rou­tinely use pub­lic Wi-Fi, even if it’s just for ba­sic in­ter­net surf­ing, should log out of mo­bile bank­ing apps or web­sites be­fore log­ging on to pub­lic net­works.

Change pass­words fre­quently and avoid us­ing the same pass­word for more than

one ac­count: Many bank­ing web­sites ad­vise cus­tomers if their pass­words are weak or strong when cus­tomers first set up their ac­counts. Even if cus­tomers’ pass­words are deemed strong, it is best to change them pe­ri­od­i­cally so hack­ers or crim­i­nals can­not guess them. And con­sumers should never use the same pass­word for more than one ac­count, as that can make it much eas­ier for crim­i­nals to steal con­sumers’ iden­ti­ties. Mon­i­tor credit scores: Con­sumers have the right to one free credit re­port each year, but many credit card com­pa­nies now up­date cus­tomers re­gard­ing their credit scores once per month. Con­sumers may need to sign up to take ad­van­tage of this ser­vice, but do­ing so is typ­i­cally free. If credit scores sud­denly dip un­ex­pect­edly and with­out rea­son, con­sumers may have been vic­tim­ized by iden­tity theft and can then take the nec­es­sary course of ac­tion to ad­dress the is­sue.

On­line and mo­bile bank­ing is con­ve­nient and should con­tinue to in­no­vate, but con­sumers must tread care­fully when ac­cess­ing sen­si­tive fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion on­line.

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