Online banking uses encryption, a form of invisible coding, as well firewalls, to protect your information from third parties. Typically, a password and personal identification number are required to log in to an online bank account. Most banks offer additional protections, such as automatically logging you off the site after several minutes of inactivity or when you leave the site without logging out of your online bank account.
Reputable banks have security measures in place to secure the personal and financial data stored in online accounts. However, data security is a serious concern for both banks and consumers, especially following a reported rise in identity theft over the past few years. Banks are constantly challenged to implement anti-fraud measures to protect financial accounts from a host of potential security breaches, ranging from the theft of printed bank statements from mailboxes to the unauthorized use of stolen ATM debit cards.
If you decide to bank online, some steps that you can take to help safeguard your online account information include:
- Access your account only from a trusted computer using a web browser that supports online banking encryption technology (this includes most current browsers, including Internet Explorer 6.0). Make sure the browser’s security and cookie settings are adjusted appropriately for your protection. In addition, make sure the computer has current virus protection and a firewall installed and enabled to help block unauthorized users from accessing the computer.
- Use a password that contains at least six characters and a mixture of letters and numbers. It is a good idea to use a password that you do not use for other online accounts, and to change the password every one to two months.
- Monitor your account for signs of suspicious activity.
- Never respond to unsolicited e-mails or phone calls requesting personal financial information or your social security number — even if the person requesting the information claims to be from your bank. Computer hackers may use so-called “phishing” tricks to persuade consumers to reveal their online bank account numbers and passwords.
Visit the Federal Trade Commission website for more information about protecting your personal information.