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With most financial transactions taking place online today, it’s more important than ever to know how to protect your financial information. COVID caused most of us to move our finances to an online space whether shopping, banking, or paying bills.
Even if you think you have top-of-the-line security on your computer, there are still ways hackers can get a hold of your information. Before you become a victim of identity theft or worse, use these five tips to protect your financial information.
Use Two Factor Authentication
It’s easy for hackers to steal your password, but when you set up two-factor authentication, it makes it a lot harder for them to get into your account. Two-factor authentication is a second layer of security.
Even when you enter your password into your bank’s website, for example, it will ask for you to authenticate the login on another device. The most common options are:
- A code sent to you via text message on your phone
- A phone call to your main phone number with a code
- An email with the code sent to your primary email address
Some financial institutions have you enter the last part of the phone number or email to confirm it’s you. If you can’t enter that information, they won’t send it and there won’t be access to your account.
If you receive an alert of an attempt to get into your account and it wasn’t you, change your password right away and alert your bank or credit card company of the issue.
Two-factor authentication is the easiest and cheapest way to protect your identity, but it’s not the only way. I suggest starting with this, but adding other layers of security too.
Use a Password Management Tool
While it may feel more convenient (and easier) to remember just one password, it gives hackers an easy way into your information. Once they guess your one password, they can get into all of your most important accounts. Instead, create a different secure password for each website that you use.
This may get tedious or frustrating especially when you have 10+ passwords to remember, but there are ways to make it easier. But first, think about how you’ll create the passwords. It’s easiest if you make them something related to the website you’re on so they are easier for you to remember unless you have another trick that’s easy to remember.
If you can’t remember too many passwords, use a password management tool. This makes keeping track of your passwords much easier without risking their security. Keeper is a great option. It stores all of your encrypted passwords so you don’t have to worry about forgetting the password for any website, or about someone getting a hold of your passwords. With Keeper, I personally create and store passwords that are 20+ characters long, using symbols and both lower and upper-case letters, which make them virtually impossible to crack.
Recommended Password Managers:
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Use a Virtual Private Network
If you do mostly online banking or conduct other private transactions online, don’t do it when you’re not on your secure Wi-Fi. Even if you think the connection is secure when you’re out don’t take a chance. If you want to take care of private business while away from home, use a virtual private network (VPN). Any information you send while on public Wi-Fi will be encrypted so if a hacker does intercept it, they can’t do anything with the information because it won’t make any sense.
A VPN also hides your device’s IP address which is a crucial piece of information hackers need if they wanted to steal your information. All hackers will see is the IP address of the VPN network, which does them no good.
Recommended VPN Providers:
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Freeze your Credit
When you freeze your credit, you literally stop anyone, including yourself from applying for any new credit. If you want to apply for new credit, you must lift the freeze temporarily, and then you can refreeze it when you have what you need.
When you freeze your credit, it stops anyone from checking your credit. If a cybercriminal were to steal your identity and try to open a loan in your name, it wouldn’t work. The credit bureaus wouldn’t provide the information because of the freeze.
They may even alert you of the attempt to access your credit. This way you’re alerted early if anyone tries opening an account in your name.
Use Physical Security Keys
Sometimes a password isn’t enough to protect your personal information. While two-factor authentication is a great way to protect your information, another way is using physical security keys, like the Yubikey by Yubico. The key is a physical key you must insert into the device after entering your password. This means even if a thief got a hold of your passwords, they couldn’t get into your device or app without the key.
The type of key you need depends on the device you’re using. For example, if you need it for a computer, you need a USB key, but if you want it for your mobile device, you need one that works in the lightning connector port or via bluetooth.
Physical security keys are one of the most secure methods of protecting your accounts and information – so long as your financial institutions support them. Unfortunately, there aren’t many that do.
Banking online is convenient and fast, but it can put you at risk too. It’s important to take all the important security measures to ensure you protect your private information.
Even when you feel secure, it’s important to take that extra layer of security, such as two-factor authentication, ensuring you’re on a secure connection, and never sharing your login and ID with anyone else.
The more steps you take to protect your identity, the easier it will be to keep your finances safe and out of the hands of hackers.