Online Banking Safety Tips

Acting on recent data that reveals many consumers still aren’t protected by even basic antivirus software when banking online, McAfee today released an educational guide for banking safely on computers, tablets or mobile devices. According to Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2010 47 percent of household financial managers did not have antivirus software installed.

Combining McAfee intelligence with the latest U.S. banking data from many top sources revealed that most consumers fall into one of three categories of online banking behavior, and that age tends to play a strong role in safety and security habits online. Most people’s level of confidence with banking online is associated with their overall comfort level online, including participating in such activities as shopping, searching, and social networking.

McAfee identified three main personality types associated with online and mobile banking, and offers customized tips for each group in its safe online banking guide:

1. ‘Competent, But A Little Careless’ Ages 18-24: This group is the most comfortable with technology but they tend to be overconfident, neglecting to put even basic security practices into place. As a result, this group leaves themselves vulnerable to banking malware. Sixty-eight percent do not even have basic antivirus software installed on their computers, according to Javelin Strategy & Research.

Tips for ‘Competent, But A Little Careless’ bankers:

  • Start with a clean PC. This means making sure that your device is clean of threats by using a free diagnostic tool which scans and detects malware, Trojans and potentially unwanted programs in running processes.
  • Buy comprehensive security software that protects you from viruses, spyware, adware, and identity theft. When it comes to security software, free is not better. A September 2010 USA TODAY survey of 16 anti-virus companies shows that no-cost anti-virus programs generally lack important features such as a firewall, website health checks, and automatic updates.
  • Avoid distracted banking: Be careful not to respond to fake bank emails (or phishing attacks) because you are multitasking. Remember, banking fraud often happens because consumers give out their own user names and passwords to fake banking sites.

2. ‘Confident But Casual’ Ages 25-45: This group uses the Internet for both work and personal reasons and are the most frequent online banking users. According to Javelin, they tend to be more likely to have antivirus software installed, with 42 percent of 25-34 year-olds and 47 percent of 35-44 year-olds using it. However, according to an August 2010 NCSA/APWG Survey, this group tends to be casual or over-confident about security, with 52 percent of 25-44 year-olds feeling as if they are already doing enough to stay safe online.

Tips for ‘Confident But Casual’ bankers:

  • If you don't have online security protection already, you need a comprehensive security suite that protects you and your family’s banking integrity. Also, remember to run a security scan before signing up for any online banking services to ensure you're starting with a computer free of malware.
  • Never respond to unsolicited email from a bank that requests personal information, such as your user name, password, or address. Even if the email looks legitimate, NEVER reply, click on links or open attachments included in the email.
  • Review your financial statements and transactions as soon as they arrive, so if there are any anomalies or unauthorized transactions you can clear them up right away.

3. ‘Conservative And Cautious’ Over 45 Years Old: This group is not as familiar with technology as younger generations, and a smaller percentage use online banking. Javelin found that they tend to be more cautious when going online, and as a result, they are better protected than the younger group, with approximately 55 percent having security software installed. This group should continue to be cautious about offline banking scams in general; research shows that some older Americans are vulnerable to automated voice messages that request financial account numbers.

Tips for ‘Conservative And Cautious’ bankers:

  • Be sure to run a security scan on your PC before you sign up for any online banking services to ensure you're starting with a computer free of malware.
  • Beware of copycat sites that look very similar to major banking institutions, and always be sure that you've typed in the correct web address when visiting your bank online. Be familiar with your bank's logo and site design.
  • Create strong passphrases. Don't be afraid to go beyond the standard eight characters and a couple of numbers - the longer, the better, and change your passphrases often.

Mobile Banking

According to Forrester Research in its January 2011 U.S. Mobile Banking Forecast, mobile banking has experienced rapid growth in the U.S. over the past three years, more than doubling from five percent of online adults in 2007 to 12 percent by the second quarter of 2010.

Furthermore, Forrester predicts that one in five -- or 50 million -- U.S. adults will be using mobile banking by 2015. It is important to remember that while banking via mobile devices is very convenient, it is still important to exercise caution.

Tips for Banking Safely Online – Using Mobile Devices

  • Connect to your bank’s mobile site or app securely by making sure that your wireless network is secure. Never send sensitive information over an unsecured wireless network, such as in a hotel or café.
  • Download your bank’s mobile application, so you can be sure you are visiting the real bank every time, not a copycat site.
  • Install anti-theft technology, and back up your data.
  • Configure your device to auto-lock after a period of time.
  • Be sure to keep all of your apps and device software up to date.

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