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How can you manage money safely online

A reports shows that there were approximately 196.8 million digital banking users in 2021, and forecasts that number will grow to 216.8 million users in 2025.

Photo courtesy of Thirdman on Pexels
Photo courtesy of Thirdman on Pexels

This article is Sponsored Content by Toby Walton

Nowadays, you do most of your money management online. You usually do your banking from your mobile banking app or online account. You do a lot of your shopping through online retailers instead of going to brick-and-mortar stores. You primarily pay with plastic instead of cash. 

You’re not alone in this. According to Statista, the number of digital banking users in the United States has steadily grown over the years. It reports that there were approximately 196.8 million digital banking users in 2021, and forecasts that number will grow to 216.8 million users in 2025. It seems that millions of Americans are leaving forms of traditional banking behind them and embracing the digital options available. 

As digital banking becomes more commonplace, so do digital banking’s security problems. Managing your money online presents a variety of security vulnerabilities that you won’t encounter in traditional banking, like data breaches revealing your banking information to hackers. This is not to say that you should stop managing your money online! This should simply encourage you to take more cybersecurity precautions while you’re managing your money online.

How?

Use credit cards for online purchases

Whenever you’re shopping online, you should use one of your credit cards to complete the purchase. Credit cards can offer benefits like price protection and extended warranties for certain types of retail purchases (for example, home electronics). Your debit card will not provide you with these types of benefits when you use it to purchase an item.

Credit cards make it easier to dispute transactions with an online retailer. For instance, if you received a damaged item in the mail and you are struggling to receive a refund from the retailer, you can contact your credit card issuer about initiating a chargeback. With a debit card, chargebacks aren’t an option. If the retailer won’t issue a refund, you aren’t likely to get your money back. 

And, most importantly, your credit card will offer more protection against fraudulent transactions. If someone ever accesses your credit card information through hacking or theft, they might use that information to make fraudulent transactions with your remaining credit. 

What you may not know is that you do not have to foot the bill for all of the fraudulent transactions made with your card. Your credit card might come with a $0 liability for fraudulent transactions, which means you won’t have to pay a single dollar after becoming victimized by a cybersecurity breach and an act of financial fraud. If your credit card company doesn’t offer $0 liability, you will only be responsible for a maximum of $50 liability due to the Fair Credit Billing Act (FCBA).

In comparison, your debit card doesn’t offer the same level of damage control. If you take more than two business days to report debit card fraud, you could be liable for a maximum of $500 for fraudulent transactions — not $50. 

Get in the habit of checking your banking apps

How can you tell whether you’ve become a victim of financial fraud? Your bank statements. 

Bank statements will reveal account transactions that you don’t remember making. Once you spot these strange transactions, you can react and contact your bank, credit card company or credit bureau right away to address the problem. 

Having the right apps downloaded onto your smartphone will make it easy to check these financial statements at any time. Your mobile banking app will reveal up-to-date bank statements with any transactions you’ve made with your bank card or through attached accounts. You can check these at any time of day. 

For added protection, set up mobile bank alerts that will go off when out-of-the-ordinary transactions are made through your bank account, like large purchase alerts, large ATM withdrawal alerts, profile change alerts or even suspicious activity alerts. Any of these should help you detect signs of fraudulent transactions right away. 

In addition to a mobile banking app, get your credit card app onto your smartphone. You can use this app to check on your credit card account statements and see whether there have been any transactions that you don’t remember making. Some apps will even have features that allow you to report signs of fraud directly. If your app doesn’t have this, you can always call your credit card issuer to discuss the signs of fraud and remove access to the card. 

Being vigilant can help you catch these serious problems well ahead of time. 

Borrow money from safe online sources 

Whenever you’re planning to borrow money online, you’ll want to make sure that you’re borrowing it from a reputable source. One way to be cybersafe is to borrow from a source that you’re already connected to, like your credit card issuer. As long as you have enough credit available in your credit card account, you can charge an expense to the balance and then pay it down over time through the monthly billing cycle. Or you could request a cash advance through the credit card account to essentially borrow against the existing line of credit in the form of a cash loan. 

What if you don’t want to use your credit card account? In that case, you may want to look into direct personal loan lenders offering online borrowing options like personal lines of credit. With an approved personal loan, you could access temporary funds to cover an emergency expense in a short amount of time and then follow a streamlined repayment process soon afterward.

But how can you deduce that you’re borrowing from a reputable source? There are certain clues that indicate that a source is cybersafe and trustworthy. Start by looking at the website’s URL. It should begin with “https” not “http.” The ‘s’ means that the website is secure and uses a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) Certificate. A secure website will encrypt data entered by the user (for instance, sensitive banking information entered for a loan application). It’s meant to prevent hackers from accessing this transferred information and using it for nefarious means. 

Another sign that the website is secure is that there is a padlock icon in front of the URL. Again, this means that the data transferred between the user’s browser and the website is encrypted. 

A computer and phone on a table

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Photo courtesy of Life Of Pix on Pexels 

Protect your online bank accounts

Every bank card requires a PIN. You need to insert that PIN in an ATM, card terminal or online account in order to access the user’s related account. So, you wouldn’t want to have a PIN that’s easy for someone else to guess. You wouldn’t want to have a PIN that’s “1234” or “0000.” That type of PIN doesn’t offer you much protection from anyone who wants to infiltrate your account.

The same is true for your online bank accounts. You will have the opportunity to set up a password for your online bank account or mobile banking app. The password will need to be strong if you want to make sure that it keeps hackers from easily breaking into your account and accessing your funds. 

What makes a password strong?

  • Length: You will want your password to be a minimum of 8 characters long. Strive to make a longer password if you can.
  • Variety: You will want to use a combination of letters (both uppercase and lowercase), numbers and symbols in your password.
  • Originality: You do not want to pick a password that is easy for a stranger to predict. Do not use words or dates that someone could guess after a little bit of sleuthing online, like your name or your birthday.

For added protection, you can set up two-factor authentication. Two-factor authentication creates an additional barrier for you to pass in order to gain entry — and in another way, an additional barrier to keep hackers away from your funds. 

Protect your smartphone 

If you use a mobile banking app to do most of your banking, you should make sure that your smartphone isn’t easy for a stranger to log into. Your phone’s homescreen should be locked whenever the device isn’t in active use. Lock it with a password, passcode or pattern. If your smartphone can use face ID unlocking or thumbprint unlocking, take advantage of it. A stranger will not be able to duplicate your face or thumbprint. 

These are just a few cybersecurity tips that you should consider when you intend to manage your money online. Following these should minimize your chances of suffering from hacking, identity theft and financial fraud. Your money will be much, much safer.

Digital Journal
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