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Staying Safe with Internet Banking

Updated on October 7, 2015
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The Rise of Online Banking

The way that we manage our money has changed dramatically in the past decade. Many people no longer go to their local branch to make payments or transfers; instead they prefer to manage their funds from their home computer. Once, this may have seemed impossible, but internet banking has become such an integral part of our lives that most people will not even think twice about it. So, what is internet banking? With over 400 million people using online banking sites, internet banking is now seen as the quicker, easier option, vastly preferable to waiting in queues and filling out forms in your local branch. However, the with the rise of online banking, people should be just as aware and careful of the online security as they are with their notes and their pennies. You wouldn’t leave your wallet on a table in a public place, so why would you leave your internet banking unsecured? There are some simple guidelines you can follow to improve the security of your internet banking accounts.

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Scams & Fake Websites

Making sure that you are using official websites is hugely important with internet banking; accidentally using a fake website is a trap that you can fall into very easily. Internet fraudsters may set up a website to look almost exactly like a bank’s official website and in addition may choose a very similar URL. If you are taken in by a fake website you may try to log-in and end up giving away your details. The main way you can avoid this is by not clicking on links that were sent to you in emails, especially if the sender looks dubious or if the email is unsolicited, as this is the main way that fraudsters will try to direct you to their website. Type in the website address yourself and pay attention to the site you are looking at – if anything doesn’t sit right with you or looks suspicious you can always call up your bank to check with them.

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Spam Emails

Another popular scam is to send out emails in bulk to random people, the emails will be styled to look like they come from a legitimate bank and will often ask you to ‘verify’ or ‘update’ your account or login details. The emails will often include a link to click on in order to verify your details. A bank will never ask you for your login details or PIN, especially not through email. A bank will not need your passwords or PIN to confirm who you are, passwords are there for you to be able to access your accounts – be guarded about giving information to anyone you do not know. A simple way to check whether an email may be a scam is to look at the greeting. The senders will be sending the emails in bulk and will not know specific information about you so may use a generic greeting like ‘Dear valued customer’ or ‘Dear Sir or Madam’. A real bank would know who you are.

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Anti-Virus

In general you should always keep your anti-virus software up to date, but this is crucial if you are using your computer for internet banking. You should also have a firewall installed to further improve your security. Scam emails sent to you may ask you to download a file (often a zip file) – this will invariably be some form of malware so having anti-malware software installed can help protect you against any ill-effects. Banks will not usually ask you to download an attached file. When you are using internet banking services you should also check whether the ‘http’ in the website’s URL has changed to ‘https’ as this shows the website is using secured communications protocols. Your browser may also show a padlock or a key to denote a secure connection.

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Internet Security Guidelines

There are other guidelines for staying safe online that are simple to follow and can help to keep your funds safe. Don’t use the same password that you use for everything, choose one that is difficult to guess and that is, ideally, a mix of letters (uppercase and lowercase), numbers and special characters. Try to avoid telling friends or family members what your login details are and don’t leave them written down on a piece of paper. Some banks will offer additional security measures, such as a handheld chip and PIN reader or a key fob that produces a different password for each time you log in, make sure to utilise them if they are available to you.

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Public Wi-Fi & VPN

Although many banks now offer apps and have mobile friendly websites, try to avoid carrying out any important transactions while you are on the move. Public Wi-Fi is generally much less secure than your home internet and people wanting to snoop on your activity can do this much easier on an unsecured public network. If it necessary for you to do your online banking on a public Wi-Fi hotspot, if you are travelling for example, then you may want to use a VPN. A VPN, or virtual private network, will encrypt your data and prevent malicious users from hijacking your session. When using internet banking in public always ensure you have logged out when you finish and if you notice anything suspicious tell your bank as soon as possible.

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