Think of all the places your financial information is stored online—credit card numbers on shopping sites and apps, bank information used for online bill pay, cards stored in your Apple Wallet or Google Pay. Is your list racking up quickly?
These days, many of us never actually see our physical money. We swipe, scan, and autopay. And while convenient, it comes with risks. Hackers are always lurking.
The financial institutions that hold your money and investments are required by law to have security measures in place to keep your personal information safe. (And if you don’t know their policies, ask: How is my information stored and used? Can I request changes to the information stored?) They have entire teams of people protecting your information.
However, there are still everyday steps you should take to protect your financial information.
Create better passwords
Yes, we know it’s not new advice. But considering two of the most common passwords in America are 123456 and 123456789—yikes!—we’ll reiterate. *Logs on and immediately changes password.*
Most fraudulent password attempts are made by a computer program specially designed to test common words, numbers, and random combinations of characters (not a person). So, the longer and more complicated you can make your passwords, the better. The Federal Trade Commission has some ground rules for what makes a strong password.
Oh, and don’t use the same password for multiple sites. Can’t remember all those passwords? We get it. Try a password manager. These software applications securely store all your passwords in one place, behind an extra layer of security that only you can unlock. Bonus: They can create unique passwords for you. This overview can help you choose one.
Stay off public WiFi—if possible
That cozy coffee shop around the corner? Great for a cup of joe. Not so great for logging in and checking account balances using free WiFi. When you do—especially those without a password—you’re inviting hackers into your device. Unless you want to potentially share your personal info with a stranger—hello, weird credit card charge from a place you’ve never visited—just don’t do it. Here’s more on why.
Use two-factor authentication
You may have noticed more accounts offering “two-factor authentication” for login, an option to provide additional information to prove your identity after entering a password. For example, you may get a unique code sent to your mobile phone after entering your username and password. It’s an extra security measure to deter hackers.
The likelihood of someone guessing both your password and your time-sensitive two-factor authentication code—well, that’s much slimmer than guessing a password alone. Learn more about it, then make sure you enable two-factor authentication when you set up online accounts.
© 2018 Principal Financial Services, Inc., 711 High Street, Des Moines, Iowa 50392