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Simple tips for keeping your banking credentials private

By Milica Kostic on 22 Nov, 2019

Online banking has made everything easier – including theft. 

In this day and age, advanced security systems have rendered armed robbery less worthwhile to criminals. But, while modern innovations have helped make us feel safer, cutting-edge tech has made us more digitally vulnerable.

We no longer worry about masked crooks declaring a heist at a brick-and-mortar bank like we used to. However, robbers are not necessarily dying out; they are just evolving and becoming more formidable than ever.

Virtual thieves are growing more capable of executing surprise sophisticated attacks online to steal sensitive information from millions of people anywhere in the world. All the while they are wearing pyjamas in their flats.

Cold cases and British examples

Sometimes these hackers and fraudsters get away with their crimes. Our friends at Fortunly name Data Processors International, CardSystems Solutions Inc. and Bangladesh Bank as some of the biggest victims of the still-unsolved financial data breach mysteries of the 21st century.

In the United Kingdom alone, many prominent attacks have rocked the nation in recent memory.

In 2018, the Financial Conduct Authority slapped Tesco Bank with a fine of £16.4 million. The penalty was for the institution’s shortcomings in preventing a cyber attack in 2016, which defrauded about 20,000 of the bank’s account holders.

Early this year, the cyber vulnerability of Metro Bank got exposed after it fell victim to a new scheme to neutralise two-factor authentication. The attackers were able to capture the codes contained in the SMS text messages sent to the bank’s customers, which were pieces of vital information to finalise transactions.

British banks were also some of the casualties of the Carbanak cybergang. The multinational crime group has been suspected of stealing more than £850 million from financial organisations in about 30 countries across six continents since 2013.

Wise ways to boost personal cyber safety

Hacking attempts can’t be avoided. Bankers can only stop them when they happen by implementing prudent and diligent cyber-security countermeasures. However, such attacks can be made less effective when ordinary customers like yourself are judicious and vigilant.

You may feel powerless against computer-savvy felons, but you really just need common sense to outwit them. Below are some tips for keeping your banking credentials and other financial details safe from malicious characters.

Avoid reusing a PIN or a password

In our increasingly interconnected world, having homogeneous login credentials is a sin. It is practically tantamount to leaving your doors and windows unlocked at night.

Do not let password-protected online accounts lull you into a sense of security. If you use the same personal identification numbers (PINs) and passwords for everything, you are essentially inviting cyber attackers to violate your privacy in one fell swoop.

It is imperative to use different login details. Also, there is merit in using random PINs and passwords instead of nicknames and dates that your acquaintances or coworkers could successfully guess with one or two tries.

Yes, it can be a pain to remember which ones are for which accounts. But losing control of your finances just because you have insecure logins is a far greater annoyance. To help keep track of everything with ease, create a secure record of your credentials like a cloud password manager.

Furthermore, take advantage of security questions to add more layers of protection to your online privacy. While two-factor authentication is not perfect, adopting it is still much better than doing the opposite. Using electronics that support biometrics authentication is smart too.

Think twice before using public Wi-Fi

We all love no-cost access to the Internet, but there is no such thing as a free lunch. Compromised privacy is the potential price of using a public Wi-Fi network, which you may pay if you aren't careful.

Whenever you are banking online, make sure the internet connection is secure. In other words, the network must require a password to restrict access. Otherwise, any hackers could heist your financial data, use your credit cards and take your money before you even have time to react.

Pay attention to a website's address

Before going to any web pages, ensure that the address begins with ‘HTTPS’ and follows a lock icon. These two features indicate that the website is secure. Without them, any third parties could snoop on your browsing activities.

Moreover, inputting your banking details in a website with old-school HTTP puts your financial data at risk of getting stolen. HTTPS connections are encrypted, so sending sensitive information over them is much safer. But remember, an HTTPS website, although encrypted, could still be operated by a criminal.

Do not share bank details via email, over the phone or in person

Any banks and financial services firms that take cyber security seriously will never ask for your login credentials in perilous manners. If someone who claims to be a representative of your financial institution asks you to text, email or tell them your banking information over the phone, you can be sure they are scamming you.

Also, never hand over your debit card or credit card to any couriers in person. Even if they appear trustworthy, unwittingly sharing your financial details with them for whatever reason will expose you to identity theft.

Beware of phishing emails too. These unsolicited messages look deceivingly legitimate, for they are crafted by seasoned con artists. Responding to them will bring you to unsafe places on the internet and dupe you into disclosing your login credentials and other valuable secrets.

Of course, there are exceptions to these rules.

Your bank may occasionally ask you to update your information or respond to a request that can help improve your account’s overall cyber security. In such instances, you ought to take action as long as you exercise the due diligence of using the right app and visiting the correct website.

Take care of your mail

Direct mail has yet to lose its relevance in most societies, including the UK, for it aids the management of personal finances. However, bank statements are hot commodities in the eyes of fraudsters.

If you are not ready to go paperless, treat your printed bills as sacred. Be mindful of how you receive and store them in order to prevent them from ending up in the wrong hands.

But if you want to rid your life of paper statements, tell your bank to stop sending them to you. When it comes to your old bills, do not discard them recklessly. Never dispose of these documents without feeding them into a shredder first.

Final thoughts

Banking in fear of cyber robbery is our reality now. The spectre of a financial data breach is terrifying, but being cautious about hacking can positively shape your online behaviour. At the end of the day, your bank can only do so much to protect your sensitive information. You ought to do your part to keep hackers and fraudsters at bay.

Milica Kostic is a Content Development Specialist at Fortunly and a Blogger at SmallBizGenius, Techjury and Hosting Tribunal. With a degree in Sociology, she is very passionate about writing, focusing on many of the social phenomena affecting our society today. Besides finance, she is also interested in cybersecurity, marketing, technology, the environment, customer and employee experience.
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