Q: As a senior citizen, I’ve needed to access my banking and also shop online much more recently with COVID-19 still posing a risk. I think I’m pretty good with the computer and my iPhone, but just want to make sure I’m being as careful as possible. Can you provide any suggestions?
A: I’m glad to hear you’ve been keeping safe and healthy. Now let’s make sure you’re keeping your online banking and purchases safe as well. Please consider the following tips as important baseline checks for your online activities.
Seven Tips for Securing Your Online Transactions
As technology continues to evolve, so too have the skills of cyber-criminals, who have honed their abilities to break through firewalls, stealing valuable personal data and funds. What steps might you consider to help secure your valuable personal and financial data when banking online?
- Connect with caution. Be careful how and where you use any online banking system.
- Never connect to the Internet through an unsecured public wireless network.
- Never access your account from a link. Links are easy to tamper with, especially if they are embedded in an email, text message, or online article. Always go directly to the homepage of the financial institution first, and navigate from there.
- If possible, try to use the same computer each time you make an online transaction, and be sure to log off when you are done.
- Protect your passwords. Choose and use your passwords carefully.
- Create “[email protected]” passwords. Use at least eight characters and include a liberal mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special symbols.
- Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts — doing so leaves you more vulnerable.
- Never use personally identifying information, such as the last four digits of your Social Security number or a family member’s name, in a password or username. That could easily be the first thing a hacker tries. Be sure to change your passwords regularly (at least three times a year) and avoid reusing the same password and username on different websites.
- Never share passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs), or other account-related information in response to an unsolicited request. If you did not initiate the communication, you should not provide any information.
- Regularly monitor accounts. Check account activity and online statements often instead of waiting for your monthly statement. If you notice a “red flag,” contact your bank immediately. When a customer reports an unauthorized transaction within 60 days of the occurrence, the financial institution will typically cover the loss and take measures to protect the account.1
- Protect your equipment. Be sure your computers and mobile devices are equipped with up-to-date antivirus and malware protection.
- Most computer operating systems have built-in security firewalls. Be sure yours is set at medium or higher.
- Exercise the same caution with your wireless home Internet connection. Without proper protection, there is nothing to stop anyone from gaining access to your computer files and personal account data. Wi-fi Protected Access (WPA) encryption is considered the best type of Wi-fi protection; Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP) should be used only if WPA is not available.
- Use social media prudently. Social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, are used by millions of people worldwide, but be sure to exercise caution when sharing personal information on these sites. Details such as your birth date, home address, or the names of schools you attended are frequently used by financial institutions to validate your identity and are therefore potentially useful to cyber-criminals. Always review the privacy policies for any social network you join to help avoid unintended disclosure of information.
- Shop on secured sites. When you shop online, be sure to use only websites and merchants that you trust and that protect your account information with industry-standard security protocols. Look for secure transaction signs, such as a lock symbol in the lower right-hand corner of your browser or “https” in the address bar.
- Understand your rights. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) “Regulation E” outlines protections that help consumers avoid losses from fraud pertaining to electronic fund transfers. You can obtain background on the rules from your financial institution or from the FDIC’s website (FDIC.gov).
With a healthy dose of caution and some old-fashioned common sense, you can safely use the Internet as a time-saving, convenient resource.
1Source: Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Jeremy R. Gussick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional affiliated with LPL Financial, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer.* Jeremy specializes in the financial planning and retirement income needs of the LGBT community and was recently named a 2019 FIVE STAR Wealth Manager as mentioned in Philadelphia Magazine.** He is active with several LGBT organizations in the Philadelphia region, including DVLF (Delaware Valley Legacy Fund) and the Independence Business Alliance (IBA), the Philadelphia Region’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. OutMoney appears monthly. If you have a question for Jeremy, you can contact him via email at [email protected]
Jeremy R. Gussick is a Registered Representative with, and securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.
This article was prepared with the assistance of DST Systems Inc. The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. This communication is not intended to be tax advice and should not be treated as such. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. Please consult me if you have any questions. To the extent you are receiving investment advice from a separately registered independent investment advisor, please note that LPL Financial LLC is not an affiliate of and makes no representation with respect to such entity.
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*As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2019, based on total revenues.
**Award based on 10 objective criteria associated with providing quality services to clients such as credentials, experience, and assets under management among other factors. Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the final list of 2019 Five Star Wealth Managers.