THINK ABOUT THE LAST time you wrote an actual check or went to your local bank branch. According to a 2018 FIS Global Consumer Banking report, 72 percent of bank interactions are now done via mobile and online rather than at your local branch. This shift to digital has caused traditional banks to reduce the number of branches as they expand their digital offerings, and it has also created the growing market of online-only banks. While mobile banking apps and online portals provide extraordinary access to your finances, recent high-profile data breaches of companies such as Deloitte and Equifax will rightfully give bank customers pause before they access their accounts remotely.
Why Bank Digitally?
One of the main benefits to banking online is convenience. Many banks’ services, such as checking account balances, transferring funds between accounts, depositing checks and paying bills, can be done from a computer or mobile app at any time of day and from anywhere. That eliminates the need to go the bank branch. If you choose to bank with an online-only bank, you can usually find better interest rates on your accounts and lower fees.
What Do the Banks Do For Your Security?
While much of the onus of account security is on the banks, you should still confirm their security practices. Your bank website should use strong encryption to protect your data when accessing your account. The current standard is 128-bit encryption, and the bank’s site should block you from using a browser that doesn’t support its security standards.
Banks should also require strong passwords to access their site online. Your bank should require multifactor authentication to access your account online. This means requiring more than just a username and password to access your account. Added steps could include answering a security question or entering a code sent to your phone. Accessing your account with a mobile app should require a passcode or biometric scan.
If the bank is online-only, it can have all the federal protections afforded by your brick-and-mortar institutions. Before opening an account with an online-only bank, you should verify the bank’s FDIC insurance, which is federal insurance that banks pay to cover up to $250,000 of an individuals’ deposits.
Do Your Part to Protect Your Information
While your bank will deploy industry-standard security measures to protect your data, you will have to safeguard your data from identity thieves and hackers. When it comes to securing your own data, there are some basic but crucial steps you can take protect yourself.
Use proper password strategies. Even if your bank requires a strong password, if you store banking data on your computer or mobile devices, make sure they are password protected. If your computer or phone is ever lost or stolen, it will make it that much more difficult for would-be thieves to access your data. If you have trouble remembering all your passwords, rather than risk getting a written password list stolen or misplaced, you can use a password manager app that will store all your passwords. That way, you will only need to remember the password for the password manager.
Keep your devices updated. Just as you expect your bank to keep their security up-to-date, you need to make sure the software on your devices is updated as well. Computer manufacturers and mobile device makers update their software regularly, not only with new features, but with important security updates. You also need to update the antivirus, firewall and security software on your computer. Make sure your bank’s app is updated on your mobile devices.
Never share your bank or personal information. Hackers and identity thieves can use sophisticated tricks to get you to reveal personal information. They can create fake websites that look like your bank, emails that appear legitimate and phone calls that will try to scare you. Your bank will never send you a request asking for your personal or banking information. Contact your bank directly using the contact information you already have if you receive any type of request. Don’t reply to an email or phone call, even if they seem legitimate.
When it comes to security, not every network is created equal. Even if your computer and devices are secure, if you access your bank from an unsecured network, your data can be compromised. Connecting to the public Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop might be free, but using it can expose your personal data to thieves. Wait to access important sites, such as your bank or email account, from your home network. If you need to access your bank while away from home, use the bank app on your phone while you are connected to your mobile provider.
You can secure your connection to the internet by using a virtual private network, or VPN. Reliable VPN software will usually come with a monthly fee but is a necessity if you need to access your banking information from unfamiliar networks.
Most banks will allow you to set up alerts for unusual activity through their web portal or mobile app. You have an alert come to your mobile phone as a text or sent as an email. Common alerts are for large withdrawals, account closure and new check orders. You can even set alerts for debit card activity.