How online banking can keep you from overdrawing your account

Seeing red? Prevent a negative balance in your account by following these simple tips, many of which can be achieved with a simple enrollment in online banking.

Opt out of overdraft coverage.
Debit card transactions cause more overdrafts than any other transaction type, according to a 2014 report from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently published by NerdWallet staff writer Spencer Tierney. Luckily, since 2010, consumers have had the option of opting out of overdraft coverage, a service that declines debit card or ATM transactions when your account contains insufficient funds. The alternative would be incurring an overdraft fee from your financial institution for the insufficient funds, as well as a returned item fee from the entity receiving your money. Opting out eliminates the additional fee or stops you from making a purchase that would send your account into the red.

Maintain a buffer balance.
Most overdrafts occur due to relatively small sums, often $20 or less. That means you can avoid a lot of overdraft fees by keeping a cushion in your checking account at all times just in case a deposit is delayed or you make a mistake in your register,” says Marcie Geffner of U.S. News contributor Simon Zhen recommends a buffer amount equal to the sum of one month’s recurring expenses (rent, utilities, fuel and groceries).

Link an account or line of credit.
Your financial institution may offer the option of linking a savings account, credit card or specified line of credit to your account that would cover an overdraft if needed. “When a transaction causes a negative balance, a [financial institution] will automatically perform an overdraft protection transfer from the linked account to cover the overdrawn amount,” Zhen explains. “Note that [financial institutions] may charge an overdraft protection transfer fee. With a line of credit, you’re simply borrowing from this credit line and you’ll be subject to interest charges, just like any other loan.”

Use online bill pay rather than auto pay.

Automatic bill pay is a great service as far as convenience goes, but it can wreak havoc on maintaining a budget. Instead of setting up auto pay with billers, utilize online bill pay through your financial institution’s online banking. Making the payments manually gives you control over the transaction, so you won’t have to worry about any forgotten expenses pulling your account balance below zero. It’s also a better option than mailing in a physical check, which could take weeks to clear.

Dutifully monitor spending.
Another benefit of online banking is the mobile aspect. Today you can check your account balance anywhere, anytime—sometimes without even manually signing in. Taking full advantage of that increased potential for vigilance can save you big.

Create account alerts.
If you find manually checking your balance to be a bit tedious, automate the process instead. Sign up for alerts through your online banking, which will notify you via email or text message anytime a certain event occurs, such as unusual account activity, an overdraft or falling below a certain amount. Some platforms will even allow you to do this in real time. “When you’re alerted to an overdraft, you may be able to deposit money in time to avoid the overdraft fees,” Zhen says.

By simply being observant and taking advantage of the tools and resources provided to you by your financial institution, you should be able to circumvent overdrafts and their corresponding fees.

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How Online Banking Can Help You Budget Better

Benefits of online banking that can aid in your budgeting process

Online bankingfebruaryfeatured_onlineacctaccess can make a personal budget much easier to manage. Enrolling will offer you numerous benefits to constantly ensure that your finances are on track, such as the following:

It will list all your accounts in one place. With online banking, you don’t have to worry about how much money per paycheck you need to avoid spending in order to save enough for that summer vacation. Make that expenditure or savings goal its own account and either manually or automatically transfer that amount. That way, you will be able to see your total amount of assets, but you won’t be tempted to, or accidentally, spend the money you needed for the plane ticket while shopping at the department store.

You may be able to organize your expenditures by category. Some software that your financial institution may utilize, like FinanceWorks, as well as third-party apps or web browser extensions such as Mint allow you to create expense categories-or better yet, do it automatically for you. This is beneficial for future budgeting purposes or to make adjustments, because you can see how much was paid in a specific area (e.g., electricity, groceries, phone service).

“This saves time and confusion from sorting through months of paper statements and allows you to compare spent amounts with budgeted amounts – so your budget resembles your real life as closely as possible,” says professional money manager and Investopedia contributor Ryan Barnes.

Scheduling and alerts allow you to avoid late payments or overdraft fees. These little charges can take a toll on your finances if you don’t stay ahead of them. Automatic bill paying and scheduling recurring payments will send a set amount of money to a certain payee on the exact date you request, so you can avoid late fees. You can also schedule alerts to tell you if your account balance is getting low, which is helpful to avoid both overdraft and returned check fees, as you can immediately transfer money from another account and conveniently get the information you need to adjust your budget.

You can see your finances in real time. Paying bills and other financial operations are almost immediate (or at least more so than writing a paper check, sending it through the mail and having to wait for it to clear). The widespread adoption of mobile banking (online banking, but not tied to a personal computer) has also facilitated these benefits.

“Consumers have a greater handle on their money since they only need a mobile connection to access their accounts. No Internet service is required,” says Editor Janet Stauble. “There are fewer surprises, as customers can check their balances and transactions anytime.”

Being able to analyze your finances in real time is especially helpful in the small business realm, says Chris Joseph of Small Business Chronicle, as you can see all your accounts and expenditures right in front of your eyes, while knowing exactly what is liquid and what assets are tied up.

Whether you use it for personal or for business reasons, online banking offers many advantages that can be vital to keeping a successful budget. Check out MyBranch Online Banking by visiting our site!

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Avoid These Online Scams

Keep your bank account safe online
Once you begin experiencingjanuaryfeatured_onlinescams the time savings and convenience of banking online, it may become hard to remember how you ever lived without it. The online tools provided by your financial institution can make many of your financial tasks a breeze, while built-in security measures keep your information and your money safe.

Occasionally, however, scammers attempt to trick people by masquerading as a legitimate business or financial institution. Below is some information you can use to help keep you safe from scams.

One of the best ways to avoid being scammed is to use a safe method of payment, such as the credit card from your financial institution.

“Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t,” the Federal Trade Commission states.

When you use your credit card, your transactions are supported by a suite of security services that attempt to identify, prevent and alert you to suspicious activity. That added layer of security can protect you from fraud and give you peace of mind when you shop and bank online.

“Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back,” states the FTC. “That’s also true for re-loadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla.”

In other words, skip the re-loadable cards unless they come directly from your financial institution and be sure to use your credit card to benefit from the fraud protection services when making purchases. This is an especially good idea when shopping online, as illegitimate websites can masquerade as well-known stores to encourage you to enter your payment information, and scammers can attempt to intercept your payment information on unsecured networks.

“Resist the temptation to use free public Wi-Fi,” cautions USA Today contributor Elizabeth Weise. “It is a trivial matter for hackers to eavesdrop on your connection and steal your information.”

Another important way to protect yourself is to keep track of current scams and remain watchful for new ones, which you can do by signing up to receive scam alerts directly from the FTC at

On Oct. 27, 2016, the FTC announced that in the nine previous months, more than 111,000 people had reported receiving fraudulent calls from IRS imposters. The scam these callers were attempting to pull off typically involved stating that money was owed to the IRS and needed to be paid immediately to avoid dire consequences, but there were several variations on the theme. In order to help people identify these imposters, the FTC prepared an educational video, which you can find at

Another common scam that the FTC warns about involves fake checks and money orders, which are often printed using the highest-quality materials and state-of-the-art printers that are capable of reproducing authentic-looking watermarks. They may even be printed with the name of a real financial institution and include legitimate account and routing numbers.

These fake checks can be used in a variety of scams, one of the most popular of which is known as “check overpayment.” This is when someone tries to sell an item online, such as through Craigslist, and receives a check for more than the sale price. The buyer then asks for the excess money to be wired, after which the check bounces and the seller loses the wired funds. To avoid this scam, never accept payment for more than an item’s sale price and never wire money to a stranger.

“If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch,” the FTC states. “That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid.”

Lastly, never respond to an email with your personal identifying information or financial information, and always check with your financial institution if you suspect you have received illegitimate communication via email or phone.

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How Online Banking Leads to Greater Awareness

Managing your accounts online helps with budgeting, spending and fraud prevention

Online banking, nowgreateraware_featured accessible from any mobile device, helps people be more aware of their spending and bank account data. With online banking, it’s much easier to prevent and detect fraud, manage your budget and ensure bill payments are received by the correct institution.

Transaction and Fraud Awareness
Most, if not all financial institutions now offer customers the ability to sign up for an online banking account. There are even some financial institutions that operate solely online. This makes it much easier to track your spending and manage your budget.

“People may find that online banking makes sticking to a budget easier because you can easily sort payments to see how much was paid to specific budget categories … and [it] allows you to compare spent amounts with budgeted amounts — so your budget resembles your real life as closely as possible,” wrote Investopedia contributor Ryan Barnes.

In fact, with online banking, you can stay up to date with your transactions and account balance almost in real time. It’s important to note that the balance and data listed on your online account statement may not be precisely accurate, as transactions could be pending or larger amounts than what you’ve purchased could be posted, such as with gas station purchases or hotel reservations.

However, Barnes reported that “some personal finance software programs (such as Quicken) can be linked directly to your online accounts to provide real-time analysis of all your balances and cash flows.” There are also money management apps, like Mint, that can sync with your online accounts to provide real-time information.

This is especially important in safeguarding against fraud. Some financial experts recommend checking your accounts and balances daily so you can quickly catch identity theft. If a fraudulent charge is made or money is withdrawn from your account without your authorization, you will be able to resolve the issue quickly, before more damage can be done.

Overdraft Fees and Bill Pay
Being able to track your account data also helps you protect yourself (and your money) from overdraft fees from the financial institution.

“If you sign up for online alerts with your [financial institution], you will receive an email when your checking account balance dips below a certain limit, say $50 or $100,” Lucy Lazarony, contributor, wrote in an April 2014 article. Then you can make sure to transfer or deposit money into the account to avoid the penalty, which is $20 to $35 for most institutions.

Online banking also helps automate bill payments to help you ensure that your bills are paid on time and that they go to the correct person or business.

“You can have the payment go out on pre-determined dates (as in every month on the 15th) or simply log into your account each month and manually trigger the charges to your accounts. Either way, there is no postage to pay—and you can see the effect on your account balances immediately,” said Barnes.

With online banking, you will not only be more likely to think about what you’re buying but also be more aware of your transaction history, allowing you to catch and prevent identity theft and stay within your planned budget.

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How to Keep Track of Passwords Safely

Don’t leave your personal info vulnerable!

Passwords: You need thempasswordsafety_featured for nearly everything these days, and it seems like each website or account has its own unique specifications for their creation. And of course, it is strongly discouraged to use the same password for all sites. So how can you keep track of them all?

Expert technology writer Rick Broida of Computerworld wrote in an article for PCWorld that he discourages his friends from keeping lists in a text file, spreadsheet or other similarly insecure document.

“That’s a disaster waiting to happen. If a hacker ever finds his way onto one of their PCs, those passwords will be easier to steal than a whiff of chocolate at the Hershey factory,” Broida says. “What’s more, if one of my amigos ever needs access to those passwords while traveling, he’s out of luck. Same goes for a hard-drive crash: It’ll take down that password list along with everything else.”

The solution is simple. Utilize one of the multitude of password manager services out there, many of which are free and offer great, useful additional features. Here are some of the most recommended.

Access this free online password manager anywhere, and feel secure doing so.

“Storing passwords and other confidential information online can make [some people] nervous, but Clipperz uses an encryption method that means not even Clipperz knows what it’s storing,” writes productivity blogger Leo Babauta on

This is one of the solutions that stores more information than just passwords – Clipperz can save and remember credit card and account numbers and much more.

For an app that utilizes fingerprint recognition and other biometric scanners, LastPass is surprisingly simple to use. Available on iOS and Android, and even alternative devices such as Windows Phones, the technology employs super-secure two-step authentication to access your information.

It too can store additional information, as well as capture Wi-Fi passwords, in a database-like interface – great for those trying to upgrade from an unprotected spreadsheet. It even offers a password generator feature to create a random password meeting all of a certain site’s specifications, and then it stores it safely and automatically.

However, Kit Eaton of the New York Times found that LastPass does have one drawback:

“While the app is free, to make the most of all its powers, like automatically filling in details on Web sites, you have to pay a subscription of $12 a year,” Eaton says in a 2013 article.

This may be one of the best-known password manager apps, and its popularity may be due in part to its amazing security. It doesn’t have two-step authentication, but it never sends data to servers, according to technology reporter for the Wall Street Journal Geoffrey A. Fowler.

“For the really paranoid, 1Password offers the most control over where your encrypted vault of passwords gets stored,” Fowler writes.

The tech allows you to sync passwords across devices using local Wi-Fi networks or Dropbox or other cloud-based service providers, which is a big plus due to its higher price and the fact that software for each platform (e.g., Mac, Windows, iOS) is sold separately.

Fowler recommends Dashlane for your secure password storage needs.

“Dashlane is like the memory you wish you had. It keeps track of not only passwords, but also credit card numbers and user IDs, filling them in when you need them across many different devices,” he explains.

It’s free to download on a single device, but there is a fee to use it – $30 a year allows the app to automatically sync your data across multiple devices. You can try it fee-free for 30 days.

The best part about Dashlane is its ease of use. Upon setup, the app and its web browser plug-ins find passwords that you’ve already been saving unencrypted on the internet and input them for you. It also has the unique ability to learn new passwords, usernames and much more automatically as you type them for the first time.

While each of these solutions comes with its own set of pros and cons, all are better than the alternative – an insecure, vulnerable set of passwords and account numbers.

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Fighting Against Data Breaches

What you can do to keep your financial data safe

Shopping online is convenient,DataOnline_Featured fun and growing in popularity, but many online shoppers worry about the impact of data breaches.

One tip for shopping online with an added layer of protection is to open a credit or debit card specifically for online shopping. If you use a debit card or a prepaid credit card, you can control exactly how much money is at risk. Keeping a separate credit card for online shopping with a low credit limit provides the same type of control and also limits the number of charges on each statement, so you can easily go through the statement and identify anything that seems amiss.

“Also, look into virtual credit cards if your card issuer offers this service,” advises Security Expert Andy O’Donnell. “Some card issuers will give you a one-time-use virtual card number that you can use for a single transaction if you are concerned about the security of a particular merchant.”

Even if you don’t use a separate card for online shopping, examining your monthly credit and debit card statements is very important if you want to keep your data safe. It isn’t enough to simply check your balance and scan your statement for big purchases.

“Scrutinize your statement for charges you don’t recognize,” according to science and technology writer Davey Alba, writing in a 2013 Popular Mechanics article. “These don’t have to be massive charges, either. Hackers will often test the waters with micropayments first, amounting to a few dollars or even a few cents. Then, when it seems like the coast is clear, they’ll go for a big-ticket purchase.”

You can also gain peace of mind by talking to your financial institution or credit card provider to learn what data breach policies are in place. Credit card companies typically offer fraud-monitoring services for free and won’t hold you liable for fraudulent charges.

“Some ID-theft-monitoring services are paid, which you can consider, but … your own provider will typically offer one for free, and [that] can be just as dependable,” states Alba.

Depending on your provider, you may even be able to customize the specific fraud alerts that are most useful to you and reflect your typical spending activities. Popular options include the ability to receive email, text or phone notifications if a single charge is greater than a certain dollar amount, if daily or weekly expenditures exceed a specified total, or if more than a certain number of transactions occur in a set time period, such as one day. You may also have the ability to receive alerts if spending is in excess of a certain amount you specify or is higher than your past average in a select category, such as merchandise or travel.

“When using the online checkout process of a seller, always make sure that the web address has ‘https’ instead of ‘http,’” states O’Donnell. “Https ensures that you are using an encrypted communications path to transmit your credit card information to the seller. This helps to ensure against eavesdropping on your transaction.”

Lastly, make sure to use strong passwords for any accounts you set up with online merchants or financial institutions, and change them frequently. Furthermore, don’t enter your payment information if you are not using your own internet service, and make sure that nobody can use your device without a password. If you do end up making a transaction on a shared computer, log out of the store website and clear the browser’s cache, cookies and web history.

If you keep these tips in mind when shopping online and talk to your financial institution about data breach policies and fraud alerts, you can gain peace of mind and stay safer on all your future online shopping sprees.

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What to Know About “Spear Phishing”

The latest scam thrives on familiarity

Most of us are aware of the term SpearPhishing_061416“phishing” — a con game in which scammers use spam, malicious websites, and online messages to trick people into divulging sensitive financial or personal information.

Now there is a new twist on the old game, called “spear phishing,” and it is vital that everyone become aware of this increasingly popular tactic for scam artists.

Rather than casting a large net and hoping someone bites, spear phishing utilizes personalization, pinpointing you as the specific target.

“The emails are ostensibly sent from organizations or individuals the potential victims would normally get emails from, making them even more deceptive,” the FBI website states. Since you are familiar with the sender, you may be less vigilant and more apt to act without thinking.

How it works: Using your web presence against you
An angler looking to spear-phish will troll social networking sites, blog pages and utilize any piece of information you put out there to his or her advantage. The scammer can easily get your email address, gain access to your friends list, gather insight on places you frequent, find out about any recent purchases you may have made and much more. Then the crook will correspond with you, using that information as a means to request sensitive information in a seemingly legitimate manner. They will get you to click on a (fraudulent) link or respond to the correspondence and provide account information, PIN codes, username and/or passwords, etc.

How to avoid getting caught up in a scam
The most important takeaway from a spear-phishing scare — being smart online — applies not only to a potential stolen identity. How much and what specific information you put out in the online realm makes you susceptible not only to Internet fraud but also to real-life criminals.

Do you consistently “check in” at a certain place and time? That’s prime information for a burglar, especially if you just posted a picture of your awesome new flat-screen TV, for example. Just be careful about the information you divulge that you think is harmless but that could be pieced together to harm you.

  • Here are a few other tips you should consider to protect yourself from spear-phishers:
    Vary your passwords – Make every password you use different from the last, and change your passwords often, advises the website for Norton by Symantec, a popular and reputable online security provider. Internet security software and aspects of your operating system can help you keep track of your various passwords.
  • Keep your security software up to date – A simple click of the mouse when an update bubble appears could save you from a cyberattack. When you get update notices, don’t ignore them.
  • Don’t be hasty – Double-check with any source that requests personal information from you. Call or email (in an entirely new thread) to verify its validity. And keep in mind that most companies, financial institutions, etc., will not request personal information via email.
  • Do it yourself – Similar to starting a new email thread, when you want to check out a link provided in an email, always enter the URL manually rather than following the link provided. Also, if you want to call the alleged source organization, don’t use the number provided in the email — always look up the number yourself to ensure it isn’t fraudulent as well.

The FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and local law enforcement are working diligently to remove threats from these criminals. But ensuring you are aware of the issue of spear-phishing and prepared to avoid it is a great start.

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Practice Safe Online Banking

And be aware of online banking scams
Online banking, alsoSafetyOnline_Featured called Internet banking or e-banking, is defined as using a computer or other type of technology (mobile phone, tablet, etc.) for banking services, such as conducting financial transactions. This type of banking is convenient and efficient, and it simplifies your finance management immensely. Long gone are the days of lingering statements and papers. Now, everything is on your computer or mobile device, right at your fingertips, at any time of the day or night.

While this type of banking is evidently the most convenient way to manage your finances, it can also pose some risks. In fact, according to US News, hackers have cost companies and consumers somewhere between a staggering $375 billion and $575 billion. And that just continues to increase.

“[Financial institutions] have become very proactive in protecting accounts from hackers, but it’s still quite a large problem,” says Sean Sullivan, a security adviser at F-Secure, an Internet security firm. “We see all types of new attempts every day.”

The good news: You can protect yourself and your assets. To reduce your odds of being hacked, follow these steps.

Avoid clicking on fishy links – Especially ones related to bank account updates. Phishing is a popular hacker move in which hackers send out what appears to be a legitimate email from your bank asking you to update your account information. There’s usually a link that follows, stating it’s the bank’s website. It’ll take you to what looks exactly like the bank’s website, but it will be a fake one, and thieves are able to record any data you enter. If you really do need to update your account, always type the financial institution website manually into the search bar. And if you receive any of these suspicious links or emails, be sure to call your financial institution to confirm whether they really sent it.

Create complex passwords – There’s a reason most websites call for case-sensitive passwords or ones with numbers or symbols. A typical method scammers use to hack into bank accounts is simply guessing a user’s password. Using a strong password decreases the chance that a hacker can easily figure it out and log in to your account.

In an analysis done of 32 million passwords by Imperva, an Internet and data security company, it was found that the top 10 passwords are as follows: 123456, 12345, 123456789, Password, iloveyou, princess, rockyou, 1234567, 12345678 and abc123. These make it easy for hackers to get into your account, so it’s important to avoid using these or any similar variations. If you’re using one of these or something similar, consider changing it. Keep in mind that the best passwords are ones that use both letters and numerals and both lowercase and uppercase characters. Also, avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

Utilize anti-virus protection – “The most important thing consumers can do to protect themselves is to practice safe computing at home,” says Greg Hernandez, a spokesman for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in Washington, D.C. “They should use a firewall and anti-virus/anti-malware software and keep it updated.”

Not only will this help you protect against common viruses like trojans and worms that can use keystrokes and other strategies to access your bank information, but it will also discourage hackers from attempting to violate your credentials.

One tip: Set up your protection software so that it automatically updates daily. That way you won’t forget to do it when needed. Also, sometimes your credit union may provide free software, so be sure to ask about it if you’re unsure.

Avoid oversharing on social media – Be wary about what you post to the world on your social media accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others.

“The way social media accounts are accessed leaves users vulnerable,” explains Larry Bridwell, global security strategist at Sticky Password. “When updating your status or posting a picture to Instagram, users may have to access an open Wi-Fi network. However, they may find themselves falling prey to hackers who utilize open Wi-Fi networks to gain access and information into accounts.”

Of course, you should never post personal information such as your Social Security number, bank account numbers, usernames or passwords, but even small things, like your pet’s name, your mother’s maiden name or the high school you attended, can backfire, as these are common answers to security questions to access accounts.

Don’t use public computers or Wi-Fi – If a scammer got hold of a public computer and installed software that can record your keystrokes, he or she can likely hack into your account if you use the computer for banking. Hotels, airports, cafes, you name it—hackers are likely preying there, waiting to grab your banking information.

“Public Wi-Fi is inherently unsecure. Anyone using it ought to do so with the premise that everything you do is visible to a third-party stranger with access to that hot spot,” says Kevin Clark, former first assistant prosecutor and expert in cybercrime. “The chances of you being hacked far exceeds the chances of your home being burglarized. This is a big business.”

For more tips on safe and secure online banking, contact us or stop by today.

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Five Common Online Banking Mistakes

What NOT to do when banking online

Many will argue that banking online has been the best invention since sliced bread. And there’s no doubt about that: no more statements and papers — everything is on your computer or mobile device, right at your fingertips.

But while banking online is certainly a feat that will make your life easier, there are some things that people do without even realizing it can be hazardous to your account safety. For your own security and protection, avoid these top online banking mistakes:

1. Don’t use an easy-to-guess password
You may be surprised at how many people don’t use original passwords, and how dangerous it can be. In an analysis of 32 million passwords done by Imperva, an Internet and data security company, found the top 10 passwords are: 123456, 12345, 123456789, Password, iloveyou, princess, rockyou, 1234567, 12345678 and abc123. These give hackers an easy in to your account. If you’re using one of these or something similar, consider changing it. Note that the best passwords are ones that use both letters and numerals and involve both lowercase and uppercase characters. Also, avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

2. Don’t use public Wi-Fi
When it comes to online banking, accessing community Wi-Fi is a no-no. Why? “People generally don’t bother to check out the security characteristics of public networks before logging on, plus wireless transmissions can be intercepted by nearby Bluetooth-type devices,” says Richard Barrington, a spokesman for That includes public libraries, too.

“The PCs [at libraries] are subject to viruses and spyware that you have no control over,” explains Robert Sicillano, a consultant for McAfee, an expert on identity theft.

3. Don’t dismiss anti-virus protection
This kind of software helps detect and protect you from malicious software (malware) and computer viruses. That’s important because “[Common viruses like] trojans and worms can infect your computer and use keystrokes and other tactics to get your bank credentials,” warns Sol Nasisi, chief economist at It’s best if you set up your protection software to automatically update daily. Also, sometimes your financial institution may provide free software, so be sure to ask about it if you’re unsure.

4. Don’t ignore your account
Check your account regularly. That will help ensure nothing suspicious is going on in your checking and savings accounts. Try checking it once a day or week, but at minimum, you should be looking at it once a month. If you see any suspicious activity, report it to your bank immediately.

5. Don’t post password hints on social media
It sounds obvious, but don’t share any super personal information on any of your social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Doing so makes it easy for criminals to use this information and possibly open up an account in your name, or even use it to guess what your password is.

“It’s important to be careful sharing your pet’s name, your children’s names, or the name of the high school you attended, especially if you use this information as account passwords or answers to security questions,” says Lisa Robinson, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo Internet Services Group. “Never share your mother’s maiden name, your Social Security number, your bank account numbers, or your user names or passwords for any account.

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Safe Online Banking

How your financial institution is keeping you safe online

Whether you need to pay a parking ticket, buy a birthday gift or make a utility payment, the ability to make financial transactions online has made so many day-to-day activities easier. Despite the convenience, it can be scary to provide your debit/credit card or financial account information online. As more and more people bank online, hackers are taking notice. Fortunately, financial institutions know just how to keep your account information and your money safe.

Because hackers are always trying to hack into financial institution’s websites, they are continuously improving their technology to keep your account safe.

“In addition, even if hackers are able to steal money from your account, you will still be protected, as [financial institutions] are liable for those stolen funds,” states Rob Berger for MSN Money.

One of the best ways that financial institutions protect your account is by informing you how to keep your account information safe yourself. One of the most common ways that hackers obtain a person’s account information is by phishing — sending an e-mail that tricks people into providing private account information.

Your financial institution will never send an e-mail that requires you to reply with your account number, pin, online login or password. Financial institutions maintain this policy so that you’re immediately able to tell if someone is phishing for your information. Never respond to an e-mail, even if it appears to be from your financial institution, with your account information. Instead, call the number on the back of your debit or credit card or on your financial institution’s website and speak directly to an employee if you’re unsure about the origin of an e-mail.

Another type of phishing scam involves receiving an e-mail with a link that appears to be from your financial institution. If you log into that copycat page, your information may be stolen. Instead of clicking on links within e-mails, it’s best to open a new browser window and type in your financial institution’s website information yourself. Once you’re on your financial institution’s page, you can login and see if you have an alert that matches the content of the e-mail you received.

“Mobile banking is generally considered safe. But online frauds like smishing are gaining some traction,” according to “Smishing occurs when you get a dubious text message from a fraudster posing as a [financial institution] representative.”

You can deal with this threat in the same manner as phishing threats. Don’t call any number that you get from a text. Instead, call the number on your card or financial institution’s website to inquire about the text message.

Many financial institutions have a verification process that keeps track of computers and mobile devices that log into your account, in order to watch out for unusual activity. This can involve a multistep login process that requires you to answer a security question along with providing the correct login information when you use a new computer or mobile device. Talk to a representative of your financial institution to find out what types of security measures are in place so you know what information will be needed if you bank on more than one computer.

While phishing and other online scams may make online banking seem scary, it can actually be one of the best ways to prevent fraud. Online and mobile banking makes communication between you and your financial institution faster and more efficient than ever, and financial institutions are using this fact to prevent fraud.

Many financial institutions send out alerts to your phone or e-mail address if a charge is made that is unusually large or outside of your typical geographic area. Some even offer a multistep process for large purchases, such as confirming a pending transaction through an app or text.

Just as online banking helps your financial institution prevent fraud, it helps you protect yourself. Because financial transactions are reported online instantly, it’s easy to keep an eye out for suspicious charges.

With traditional banking, you have to wait for a paper statement in the mail.

“That gives fraudsters ample time to spend your money,” according to “With online banking, you’ll know when a charge is recorded with the [financial institution], especially if you set up cell phone text or e-mail alerts.”

If you would like to discuss online banking, please don’t hesitate to give us a call.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser
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