Consumers are conducting more and more of their financial transactions online. Consequently, they may become vulnerable to tracking, hacking, identity theft, phishing scams, and other online risks. While nothing can guarantee complete safety while online, much can be done to understand and minimize your exposure to risk.
Here are some basic ways to help maintain privacy and secure your information while on the web:
Understand privacy policies
Before conducting any financial transactions online, carefully read the privacy policies of each institution with which you plan to do online business. Find out how the business intends to maintain and secure your financial information. If you don't understand the legal jargon, ask questions. You can always email or call a business and request a simplified explanation of its privacy policies.
Avoid using easily decipherable PINS and passwords
When deciding on PINS, passwords, and other login information, avoid using your mother's maiden name, your birth date, the last four digits of our Social Security number, your kids names, or your phone number. Avoid other obvious choices, like a series of consecutive numbers or your home town. Also, avoid using the same PINS and passwords on multiple sites. Then, if your PIN or password is discovered on one site, the others will remain secure.
Use secured web pages
Use only secure browsers when shopping online to guard the security of your transactions during transmission. There are two general indicators of a secured web page. First, check that the web page URL begins with "https". Most URL's begin with "http" - the "s" at the end indicates that the site is "secure". This means that passwords and other information will be encrypted before sending back and forth to the server. Second, look for a "lock" icon in the window of the browser. You can double-click on this icon for details about the site's security. Be cautious about providing your financial information to websites that are not well known. Larger companies and well-known web sites have developed policies to protect the rights and financial information of their customers.
Keep your operating system up-to-date
High-priority updates are critical to the security and reliability of your computer. They also offer the latest protection against malicious online activities. When your computer prompts you to conduct an update, do it as soon as possible.
Keep your Firewall turned on
A firewall helps protect your computer from hackers who might try to delete information, crash your computer, or steal your passwords or credit card numbers. Make sure your firewall is always turned on.
Do your homework
To learn more about securing your computer and protecting your personal information, visit www.getnetwise.org, www.onguardonline.gov, or www.wiredsafety.org. These websites provide valuable information to help you protect your private information when conducting financial transactions online. In addition, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair practices in the marketplace.
While maintaining anonymity on the web can be challenging, it's important to protect your financial information and the financial information of your family. In time, more protective measures will be established so that you can feel assured that your financial information will be protected from unknown third parties. In the meantime, it's up to you to safeguard your financial information by being vigilant in your online practices.