The Mack family’s trip to the beach is minutes away—the flight will begin boarding in less than half an hour—and Juan Mack wants to check his bank account balance. He gets out his smartphone, connects to the airport Wi-Fi and within seconds, he knows where his funds stand. In those few moments, however, he also made a common mistake that increased his financial information’s vulnerability to being compromised: He used public, non-password-protected Wi-Fi.
Most Americans bank online, and 43% do so using a mobile device, according to the Federal Reserve1. Those trends, along with the popularity of using credit and debit cards to pay for purchases both online and at brick-and-mortar stores, have contributed to hacks and data breaches involving financial information, such as those in recent years that affected Target and Home Depot.
In 2016, data breaches in the United States reached a record high, although those involving the financial sector accounted for the smallest percentage, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout2. Use these tips to add extra security to your bank account:
- Avoid getting hooked. Email phishing and similar schemes that attempt to trick individuals into clicking on hyperlinks or opening attachments—thereby granting the sender access to the recipient’s personal information—were the top source of data breaches in 2016, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center and CyberScout3. Don’t trust unsolicited links or attachments unless you confirm their safety with the sender.
- Create powerful passwords. Use nonsensical yet meaningful (to you) combinations of letters, numbers and symbols. Use different passwords for different accounts. Use a digital password manager as a storehouse—don’t write passwords down.
- Don’t go public. Avoid using public computers or free Wi-Fi networks to access financial information. Conduct banking activities only on private, secure devices.
- Double up. Whenever it’s available, use two-factor authentication to access email and bank accounts, which requires you to enter both a password and a temporary code.
- Keep your technology up to date. Download and install the latest operating system updates and security patches for your devices and computers.
- Know your numbers. Get in the habit of checking your account balance weekly—or, at the least, monthly—so you can keep an eye out for irregularities.
- Verify—don’t trust. Wondering whether that official-looking text message or email from the bank is legitimate? Before you reply or take any other action, call your financial institution’s customer service line to inquire.
For more information about keeping your bank account secure—and to learn what First Tennessee does to help—visit the Security section of our website.
1www.federalreserve.gov, https://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/consumers-and-mobile-financial-services-report-201603.pdf, March 2017
2,3www.idtheftcenter.org, http://www.idtheftcenter.org/2016databreaches.html, January 2017