Whether you go online to check your bank balance, pay a bill, give money, shop, or sell something, these six simple rules can help you keep the risks to a minimum.
Defend your computer against Internet threats.
Help protect your online transactions by using a firewall, and anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Encrypt your wireless (wifi) connection at home. Keep all software (including your web browser) current, with automatic updates.
Create strong passwords.
Strong passwords are easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess. They are at least 14 characters long (the longer the password, the better) and include numbers, symbols, and uppercase and lowercase letters. Keep passwords and PINs (personal identification numbers) secret. Do not share them in emails, instant messages, or over the phone.
Use unique passwords for bank accounts and other important financial transactions. Avoid using the same password everywhere. If someone steals that password, all the information that the password protects is at risk.
Find the web address yourself.
Links in email messages, text messages, instant messages, or pop-up ads can take you to websites that look legitimate but are not. To visit websites, type the address yourself or use your own bookmark.
Look for signs that your information is safe.
Before you enter sensitive data on a webpage, ensure that:
- The site uses encryption – a security measure that helps protect your data as it traverses the Internet. Signs of encryption include a web address with “https” (the "s" stands for “secure”) and a closed padlock beside it (the lock might also be in the lower right corner of the window). See the example below:
- Always double-check that you are at the correct website (for example, at your bank's site, not a fake one). If you are using Internet Explorer, one sign of trustworthiness is a green address bar like the one above.
Save financial transactions for your home computer.
Never pay bills, bank, shop, or do other financial business on a public or shared computer, or on devices such as laptops or mobile phones that are on public wireless networks. The security is unreliable.
Use common sense.
To protect yourself against fraud, watch out for scams. For example, be wary of deals that sound too good to be true, strange alerts from your ‘bank’ (usually that your account will be closed unless you take some immediate action), or unexpected notices that you have won a lottery or inherited a large sum of money from an unknown person.
Typically this kind of message, whether sent by computer or phone, is designed to entice you to either reveal your financial details immediately or visit a phony website where criminals can collect your financial data. If you doubt the message's authenticity, call the company concerned.