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12 Ways to Keep Your Money Safe Online

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.)

9. Request refunds

Shoppers have the right to cancel orders and get refunds if orders are late or show up damaged or defective. If the retailer resists the refund, shoppers can call on their credit card companies for help. Stopping payment to the retailer is one option.

10. Don’t friend strangers

Fraudsters sometimes prey on people over social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. To protect yourself, avoid accepting friend requests from strangers. It’s easy to “unfriend” someone after accidentally accepting a request; consider combing through your connections at least once a year to weed out anyone no longer familiar to you.

Even with real friends, accounts can get hacked. For example, a link a friend posts about a great deal on a restaurant or retailer might actually take you to a phishing site. Be especially wary of deals that sound too good to be true or of shortened links with hidden domain names.

11. Avoid fake birthday or holiday cards

They might look like they’re spreading cheer, but e-cards can pack a hidden punch. By directing recipients to click on embedded links, they can funnel them to scam sites. If you receive an e-card, be sure you know who sent it before opening it.

12. Schedule a regular paperwork review

Reviewing credit card and bank statements each month can help consumers catch any errors, as well as the first sign of potential fraud. If any charges seem incorrect, let your card company or bank know. It could prevent major headaches down the road.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report


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