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March 23, 2020

5 Ways to Protect Your Online Banking & Finances

Guest Author: Ali Rennoll

It probably won’t come as any surprise that Citi’s annual mobile banking study found that mobile bank apps were one of the top three most-used types of apps. In fact, online and mobile banking now represents the primary banking channel for two-thirds of Americans. Besides the convenience and time benefits of these innovations in personal finance, mobile and online banking can also increase the confidence and knowledge small business owners have about their financial health. Around 62 percent of them say they experience a greater awareness of their finances thanks to mobile banking. However, even with all the benefits that employing mobile/online banking can provide, it can also come with increased vulnerability if you do not take proper precautions. So how can we all stay safe?

Stick To Your Bank’s Trusted Apps

When downloading your mobile banking app, go with your bank’s recommendations since most banks already research and vet their recommended apps. During the development phase, banks rigorously test the security of their banking apps and online banking systems. Most banks will have notifications on their website to help you download their tech pieces and identify their recommended third-party apps.

Verify Mobile Finance Apps Before Linking It To Your Bank Account

There is no shortage of personal/business finance apps currently on the market. Before installing and using personal finance apps or for your business, do your homework by checking out user reviews and online news on it. By taking steps to keep your personal or business data safe online, you are protecting your identity (and those of your brand and customers, if you’re a business).

Before linking any downloaded apps to your checking account, you want to verify its authenticity. You also want to stick to your phone manufacturer’s official app store when downloading apps for your mobile.

Encrypt Stored Data On Laptops And Computers

If you are using a shared computer to do your banking online, set up a separate user account for yourself. While most banking websites have an automatic session timer attached, get in the habit of logging out each time. Also, your customer login or identification number along with other banking details can be retained on your computer even after logging in thanks to autosave and cookies.

You can choose to encrypt stored documents including downloaded bank statements and communication. File encryption software like Encrypto and DiskCryptor are free and can store your encrypted files on a virtual hard drive.  Alternatively, you could install a trusted VPN to encrypt your connection to your bank’s website and further protect your assets.

Separate Your Small Business And Personal Banking Accounts

Did you know that 27 percent of small business owners use the same account for business and personal transactions? In addition to the confusion this can cause for budding entrepreneurs, it also extends your vulnerability. Recent years have seen a spike in fraud targeting small businesses and consumers individually. Having your accounts linked means fraudsters access both business and personal information such as social security and personal checking accounts balances in one go. To avoid this, make sure there are strict boundaries between your personal and business finances including separate checking accounts, distinctive passwords and the use of business banking apps if available.

Password Protect Your App And Phone Separately

An easy way to protect information on your mobile banking app is to activate a password or pattern lock on your phone. In this case, if you misplace your phone or it is stolen, others won’t be able to access the app or carry out actions such as bank transfers. To add another layer of security, activate your phone’s individual app lock using a different password or pattern. This way if they do manage to bypass the initial security, your mobile app remains locked.

The benefits of mobile and online banking are endless, both as a consumer and a small business owner. However, while enjoying the perks of such innovation don’t forget to protect yourself from the risks that come with it. Make sure you keep your business and personal finances safe, know your options for online and mobile security and ensure you use verified websites and apps when doing your banking. The digital world opens up a whole new group of challenges. Only by being proactive can you protect yourself, your business and your assets.