Nearly every commercial bank and financial institution now offers its services online. Indeed, many of them are shutting down branches because their customers can access almost all services through a website portal, app, or even SMS shortcodes.
According to a recent report, the number of bank branches in the US dropped from about 95,000 to about 83,000 between 2010 and 2019. That is about a 12% decline. During the same period, however, the number of unbanked decreased by almost 50%. Much of the activity just moved online.
While online banking has cut costs and provided convenience, it has also come with its own risks and challenges.
Thieves no longer need to raid banks with guns and lock cutters. They can sit in front of their computer at home and sip coffee while they break into and clean your bank account.
While banks and financial institutions invest billions of dollars into securing their systems, it is still upon you to protect your online transactions from hackers lurking everywhere.
The following are five things you can do to secure your online banking transactions and the money in your account.
1. Transact From Devices You Own
It is always better to access your bank account or use a payment app through a device that you own and fully control. That is because devices and browsers, in particular, store transaction data such as passwords.
The person who uses the device next can access this information, and if they are not trustworthy, they can use it to steal from you.
If you have to use a device that you don’t own, then you must delete your transaction history immediately after you are done. You should also not approve the browser saving your login credentials.
2. Use a VPN
One of the ways that hackers access your login credentials is by monitoring your activity online. They don’t have to physically stand behind you while you transact to do this—even though this happens as well.
Often, what they need is access to the network you are using to connect to the internet. That could be a public WiFi or even your home internet they have managed to compromise.
You should consider using a virtual private network (VPN) for online banking security. This is a solution that encrypts the information that comes and goes out of your device so that someone watching cannot make sense of it and therefore collect critical information such as logins to your online bank account.
3. Use 2-Factor Authentication
It is possible to make it a little harder for an attacker to access your online bank account even when they get hold of your passwords and PIN.
Indeed, you might put security measures in place, but still, a tech-savvy individual can get your account login credentials.
It is also possible to lose your bank account physical documents such as credit and debit cards, and if someone gets them, they might have everything they need to spend your money.
Fortunately, almost all online banking services have the 2-factor authentication feature, which you can activate to add an extra security layer.
After you activate this feature, a one-time use code is sent to your email or phone every time you need to log in. That means that, for someone to steal from you, they need to have physical access to your phone or access to your email box.
4. Don’t Use the Same Password for Several Platforms
It can be hard to remember passwords, especially when you have several for various platforms. Because of this, we are often tempted to have one password for several platforms, including our online banking accounts.
This is risky because the platforms on which you have accounts don’t have the same security measures. Hackers can target the platform with the weakest security, and once they get your password there, they try it on your other accounts, including your online banking accounts.
Even for several banking accounts, you should have unique passwords and PINs for each. You just have to figure out how to remember them.
5. Avoid Public WiFis
Public wifi internet connections come in handy while you are on the go or away from home or the office. Unfortunately, when you use them you expose yourself to those connected to it. A third party can watch your activity and collect critical information.
For example, they can collect your online banking accounts logins and proceed to attempt to steal from you
Therefore, you must minimize the times you use your online banking service while connected through public WiFi.
You should consider buying mobile data to use to transact online when you are not home or at the office.
6. Know and Confirm the URL
It takes a single character in the URL for you to be sent to a different online portal. Hackers can utilize this to collect critical banking information from you.
They usually create a website that is a replica of that of your bank and then acquires for it a domain name that looks similar such that if you are not careful you will think you are on the right page and input your login details.
You should acquaint yourself with the right URL, and if possible, bookmark it on the device you usually use to access the banking services.
Online banking will be the norm going forward, which means we need to learn how to protect ourselves from theft that is carried out remotely. Far from what you might think, you don’t have to be a tech-savvy to protect your online banking transactions. These six measures can go a long way.