Your personal financial information, including things like bank account numbers, debit card numbers and PIN numbers, can be some of the most important pieces of information that you need to keep private.
Unfortunately, thanks to technology, there are more ways than ever for thieves and scammers to get their hands on this information.
Here are some ways to keep bad guys out of your bank account.
- Never give your account number to anyone unless it is a representative of your bank or credit union. Even then, take steps to insure that’s who you’re talking to.
- Do not give out banking information, including your debit card number, over email.
- Avoid using debit cards for online purchases or in situations where you are asked for a payment method over the phone. Try not to use debit cards in restaurants where the server takes your card out of sight to process it. Credit cards have more protections in place and don’t offer access to your bank account, so use them in situations like these.
- Consider using debit cards only at ATMs. Even big retailers get hacked, so consider carefully where you swipe that debit card. If your debit card number is netted in a hack and used on unauthorized purchases, your funds could be frozen for 7-10 days while your bank investigates.
- With credit cards, your liability in case of fraud or billing errors is $50 under federal law and you have 60 days to dispute. With a debit card, the $50 liability expires two days after the transaction, then liability increases to $500.
Scammers can attach devices to ATM machines and gas pumps to capture the information on your debit or credit card when you swipe it. Some even install hidden cameras to record your PIN number.
- Examine the area around ATMs or gas pumps to make sure the machine hasn’t been tampered with.
- Look for concealed cameras.
- Cover the keypad with your hand while you enter your PIN.
Using a smartphone, tablet or laptop to manage your finances can be a convenient way to monitor your money from anywhere at any time, but it’s important to take steps to protect your information when using mobile technology.
- Secure your mobile devices. Most smartphones, tablets and laptops have the option to lock the device and require a password, PIN or fingerprint to unlock it. Enable these features.
- Use strong passwords and PINs. A strong password uses upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. A strong PIN is a random combination of numbers, not your birthday, not the last four of your social.
- Keep your transactions secure. Don’t use unsecured Wi-Fi signals, such as those in coffee shops and restaurants, when accessing your account information. Make sure that web addresses have https at the beginning. This means the site is encrypted.
- Research any app before downloading it. Just because the name of an app resembles that of your bank or your favorite online store, don’t assume that it is the official app. Fraudulent apps are designed to trick users into putting in their financial info.
- Beware of emails and text messages from unknown sources. Scammers often send links through email or text messages that can download malware on your device that can grab your personal information and passwords. The messages may also appear to be from your bank and may ask for personal information. If you have any doubts contact your bank directly.
- Set up alerts. Make your mobile technology work for you. Set up alerts on your debit and credit cards to send you an email or text message when suspicious activity occurs or when a purchase over a certain amount is made.