12 Ways to Keep Your Money Safe Online

As posted on May 5, 2015 on money.usnews.com

By Kimberly Palmer

We do a lot with our money online, from shopping and transferring funds to tracking our budget. To make sure you’re keeping it safe, along with your personal information that would allow someone to hack into your accounts, you’ll want to take some precautions. Here are a dozen tips from privacy and security experts on how to protect your money when banking and shopping online.

1. Look for FDIC-insured accounts.

When using online bank accounts, which often offer competitive interest rates on savings accounts, you’ll want to make sure your short-term savings are in FDIC-insured accounts. This means the government insures the money for up to $250,000 per owner.

2. Check on app security.

Whenever you download a new app to your phone or tablet, especially one related to shopping or financial management, you’ll want to check its security protocols first. Most apps for banks or financial institutions have highly developed security systems in place that customers can easily access. If the security information isn’t readily available, or you have any doubts about whether you should share personal information like passwords with the app, then consider skipping the download. 

3. Avoid suspicious websites.

If a website is poorly designed or has multiple pop-up windows, it might not be a legitimate retailer. To stay safe, stick with big-name retailers or, on smaller sites, familiar payment systems like PayPal. If you still want to make the purchase, use a credit card and not a debit card; most credit cards have  strict fraud protections in place. If a thief gains  access to your checking account through a debit card, though, he could steal your savings.

4. Don’t click on hyperlinks in emails.

A common scam involves sending emails that ask the recipient to click on a hyperlink or open an attachment and then enter personal information, such as bank account numbers. The Better Business Bureau recommends ignoring any emails that make these kinds of requests.

Phishing scams involve victims receiving a request, usually by email, for information from what looks like a legitimate source. When they enter their information (such as passwords or Social Security numbers) on a Web page, they then discover the entity requesting it is actually a scam artist. That person now has access to your passwords and whatever other information you provided.

5. Use caution when shopping by phone.

If you’re making online purchases with your phone’s browser while it’s connected to an open network (think coffee shops and airports), then it’s possible for other people to steal or access the information you’re transmitting. Wait until you’re on a secure network instead.

6. Keep your Social Security number to yourself.

Fraudulent emails and fake websites sometimes request Social Security numbers. Legitimate businesses seldom make such requests. Shoppers should not share this information online. You’ll also want to take steps to protect your children’s numbers, too. While pediatricians and other doctors often ask for Social Security numbers on forms, you don’t have to share them.

7. Take advantage of credit card perks.

Since credit cards usually come with extra fraud protection, which means consumers might be able to get their money back if they fall victim to fraud, you should take advantage of that protection. Contact your card company at the first sign of a scam; some credit card companies require customers to submit claims within a certain time frame to get reimbursed.

8. Use strong passwords.

Retail sites often ask for passwords at checkout. Using the same password across multiple accounts, including financial accounts, can leave you at risk for password break-ins. For important accounts, use only secure passwords that are long and difficult to guess. (Don’t forget to add a password to your phone, too, just in case you lose it – it contains a lot of personal information.)