The Paranoid Guide to Online Banking
Why Online Bank Fraud Is So Popular
Cybercrime is the future of fraud. The benefits are obvious and compelling, at least if you have some criminal energy. For one, you can target a lot of people without having to show your face or reveal your true identity. Of course the majority of attempts to con people fail but who cares? The whole enterprise is cheap anyway. Stealing the money of a few people is sufficient to make the endeavor worth financially. The fact that online bank fraud is steadily on the rise speaks to this.
So What Should We Do Now?
Well, we should stay as safe as we possibly can and minimize the risk of becoming a victim. To be honest, there is no absolute safety even with the best of precautions but this holds true for all aspects of our lifes. So lets think of ways that will promote safe online transactions. There is a behavioral aspect to enhancing your online safety tremendously without having to be a technology geek. Here are a few golden rules:
Pick a Good Password
Picking good passwords for your online accounts is essential. If you have a hard time remembering passwords other than your birthdate or the name of your dog, I have a little trick for you. Think of your favorite lyric, poem, saying or joke, pick one sentence and finally select the first letter of each word. Exchange a few letters for numbers, e.g. i for 1 or o for zero and you have a good password that can not be found in a dictionary. Have a look at this example line from the "Paint it Black" lyrics of the Rolling Stones:
No more will my green sea go turn a deeper blue
N m w m g s g t a d b
N m w m 9 s 9 t 0 d 6
Never Give Away Your Account Information
A very effective way criminals try to obtain your account information is via email or phone. If you receive an email claiming to be from your bank do NOT follow any links in this email. Chances are good that you end up on some fake site that requests your account information. A good measure of suspicion also helps when someone calls claiming to be a bank employee. Never give away your account information, i.e. login credentials. If you are not sure whether the request is legitimate, go and speak personally to a representative of your bank.
Be Careful Where You Do Your Online Banking
Don't do online banking when you are connected to a not trustworthy network. Going to a coffee shop to pay that bill quickly you forgot about is not a good idea. You never know if someone might be listening. A similar idea applies when you are not using your own computer, e.g. in an internet café. Bad idea! If you can not avoid using a network you can not trust setup a Virtual Private Network (VPN). To do so, you might want to look at the OpenVPN software.
Have the Bank Enhance Your Accounts Security
Find out if your bank offers two factor authentication. It is a fancy name for a simple method. In addition to having an account ID to login, the bank will send you a one time pin for each transaction. You receive this transaction pin as a text message on your phone. Only entering this pin on the banks website is going to execute your transaction.
That way even if someone knows your account ID, they can not transfer money without having access to your phone. Having this additional layer of security is a great benefit you should use.
Harden Your Operating System
Always install a virus scanner, if you are using Windows as your operating system. But keep in mind that even virus scanners do not provide 100% protection. If you are not sure that your system is virus free, you have several options. An obvious solution would be to reinstall your Windows operating system.
You can also install another operating system called Linux as a second operating system on your computer. The Linux operating system is inherently safer than Windows and practically immune to viruses. You can find a beginner friendly tutorial at http://hubpages.com/technology/Tutorial-Linux-for-Windows-Users