7 Online Banking Safety Tips You Should Know

Banking online has made managing money a lot more convenient than it used to be. We don’t have to visit the bank to transfer our funds, or wait for the next paper statement to know what the balance is. All that information is at our fingertips. But while online banking has made things easier for us, it’s also made things easier for thieves. All criminals need to do is wait for you to let your guard down and expose your personal information, or send out a virus that will collect the information. The only way to avoid becoming a thief’s next victim is to carefully guard your personal information and always practice these online banking safety tips.

  1. Don’t access your bank accounts on public Wi-Fi
    When you’re on public Wi-Fi, hackers can more easily access your computer and steal personal information from it. You should never access your bank’s website through a computer, tablet, or mobile phone unless you’re on a secure Wi-Fi network with a password, or using your own cell phone data connection. This is much more difficult for thieves to hack, so it keeps your information safer.
  2. Avoid saving your login information
    Some websites give you the option to save your login information for future use, but if someone uses your computer or mobile device after you, they could gain access to your bank accounts. To help prevent this from happening, many banking sites now time out after a certain number of minutes of inactivity, and do not save your information.
  3. Use strong passwords and change them often
    Strong passwords have a mix of upper- and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Many banks now require our online accounts to carry a password meeting these requirements. You should also change your password every couple of months, and use different passwords for all of your online accounts so that hackers will have a more difficult time gaining access to your information.
  4. Use two-factor authentication whenever possible
    Two-factor authentication is the next level of security that many banks are now offering. Usually, you give your bank your phone number, and it texts a code when you log in online. Some banks also enable you to request a code via email or a phone call. You must enter this code in addition to your password to log in. This way, even if someone has stolen your password, they cannot access your accounts. It’s another hoop to jump through, but it could help keep your money safe.
  5. Keep your computer updated
    Outdated computers and mobile devices may not be secure enough to protect your personal and financial data against the latest computer viruses. If your computer gets infected with a virus, a hacker could gain access to your bank accounts without you knowing it until your money is gone. Always perform your computer’s recommended updates as soon as they become available, and install antivirus software on your computer.
  6. Always type your bank’s web address into your browser yourself
    Some hackers send out “phishing” emails that appear to be from your bank. They’re hoping you’ll enter your login information at their fake version of the bank’s site. Never click on links in emails that appear to be from your bank, even if they look legitimate. Instead, type the bank’s web address into the URL bar yourself, or use a search engine to find the correct web page. You can bookmark the right page for later use.
  7. Monitor your account regularly
    Following the above precautions should, hopefully, keep others out of your bank account. The only way to make absolutely sure is to check your account balances and transaction history regularly, and make sure your money isn’t going anywhere it isn’t supposed to. If you notice suspicious activity, change your account password, and contact your bank immediately.

    Most of these rules should be common sense, but you can never let your guard down. This is your money at stake — when it’s gone, you may not be able to get it back. If you haven’t updated your computer’s software lately, set-up two-factor authentication, or changed your bank account password in a while, do it now to ensure that your financial information stays yours alone.

5 Mini-Makeovers to Spruce Up Your Home

Whether you live in a house or an apartment, changing your surroundings can make you feel like you just moved in. Here are five mini-makeovers you can complete in a weekend at little to no cost:

Paint a Wall

Are your walls the same neutral color as they were when you moved in? Are you too busy or too intimidated to paint a room a vibrant or bold color? Instead of painting an entire room, paint one wall to provide a colorful backdrop to your belongings. Instead of a wall, you can even paint an alcove or some other architectural structure to draw attention to it.

Color inspiration can come from nature, a work of art, a fabric swatch, or even your favorite color. If you still can’t decide on an accent color, consider Pantone’s 2020 Color of the Year: classic blue. The Pantone Color System is the universal standard for a wide range of industries, including design, fashion, and architecture to name a few. The color of the year is selected based on trends and color psychology.

You can paint a single wall with minimal experience and cost. A gallon of paint covers about 350 square feet and costs between $15 and $30. If you don’t like the color or move, painting the wall back to neutral is just as simple.

Paint Your Cabinets

How do you refresh a room that has tiled walls, like a kitchen or bathroom? Well, those rooms probably have cabinets. If you can’t afford a full kitchen or bathroom makeover, consider painting or staining the cabinetry.

Changing the color of your cabinets may require a bit more elbow grease than painting a wall. Not only do you have to remove the hardware and doors from hinges, but you may also need to prepare the surfaces by sanding or stripping the original paint or stain.

A fresh coat of paint or stain can modernize your kitchen or bathroom and make a small room look brighter and more open. For 200 square feet of cabinetry, you can expect to spend about 20 hours on prep and an additional 15 to 30 hours to complete the project.

Use Slipcovers

We all have a favorite comfortable chair or sofa. However, after years of breaking it in, it might be looking a bit threadbare. Give your chairs and sofas a quick update with slipcovers.

Slipcovers make your furniture look like new and are also easy to clean if you have pets or unexpected stains. Depending on the material and the size of the furniture you’re covering, you can buy a slipcover for as little as $20.

Buy a Rug

A rug can add color to a room and also masquerade wear and tear on your floor. Rugs come in all shapes, colors, and textures. You can find a simple throw rug for under $20. If you’re feeling opulent and can afford it, a wool or authentic Persian rug will cost a couple of hundred or even thousands of dollars. Regardless, buying a rug is a lot simpler and less expensive than installing new carpet, tile, or hardwood.

Rearrange Your Furniture

If your budget is nonexistent, simply rearranging your furniture can literally refresh your outlook. Before you start, come up with a plan. You can use good old-fashioned paper and pencil or use your computer to sketch out your layout to scale. Measuring the room and large furniture will give you a better idea of the new arrangement.

For a living space, decide on a focal point, such as the TV, a fireplace, a window, or a coffee table. Then, place the seating around the focal point. Arrange tables and ottomans near seating. Finally, accessorize with lamps, vases, and other décor.

To rearrange a bedroom, start with the bed first. If you have space, experiment with “floating” the bed in the center of the room or placing it at an angle instead of right against a wall. Then, arrange all other furniture from largest to smallest.

Updating your home doesn’t take a lot of time or money. All you need is a little elbow grease and imagination to freshen your living space.

4 Best Practices to Safeguard Against Identity Theft

Identity theft continues to be a growing problem, especially as we rely more on technology to conduct business that involves entering our personal information online. Despite understanding the threat of having our identity stolen, many of us are lackadaisical about protecting it.

In a 2017 survey conducted by credit reporting giant Experian, 81% of respondents rely on banks and credit card companies for identity protection, and more than half don’t believe they are at risk. Here are four tips to defend your identity from being stolen.

Limit What You Carry in Your Wallet

Regardless of mobile payment methods, like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Pay Pal, identity thieves still resort to old-fashioned methods of stealing bags and wallets to gain access to your financial information. Minimizing your wallet contents makes misusing your identity more difficult for thieves.

Only carry one or two essential credit cards at a time. Keep cards that you use only occasionally at home under lock and key. Also, never carry around your Social Security card. Getting hold of your Social Security number is like winning the jackpot to a thief.

Use and Mix Up Passwords

Passwords and personal identification numbers (PINs) are the keys that unlock your digital identity. The Experian study found that 50% of those surveyed don’t bother password-protecting their digital devices, and 30% find passwords an annoyance. You leave the door wide open for thieves by not using passwords and PINs.

Make your security codes simple enough for you to remember but too complex for fraudsters to figure out. Don’t use the same codes for multiple sites or devices, and avoid using identifiable information like anniversaries or names.

To keep track of your passwords and PINs, you can use a password management tool or simply write them down in a notebook that you keep locked away for safekeeping.

Review Bills and Monitor Your Credit Report

As we become more environmentally conscious and cost-efficient, online billing and paperless statements are becoming the norm. With the convenience of receiving bills digitally, you may be tempted to automatically pay them from your bank account without looking at them carefully. Instead, take a few minutes to download and review your statements for discrepancies or unusual charges.

To ensure your credit hasn’t been used to open a fraudulent account, you should also monitor your credit report annually. You’re allowed to request one free credit report a year from Equifax, TransUnion, or Experian. Check your report for inaccuracies and suspicious accounts that have been opened under your name.

Invest in a Shredder

In spite of our dependence on technology, we may find a need for hard copies of certain documents, especially legal or financial papers that contain identifiable information. Never place such documents, receipts, or other printed records directly in the trash or recycle bin. Buy a personal shredder to destroy paperwork.

If you have a large amount, several office supply stores and printing facilities offer secure shredding services. You might also check if your community or an organization in your city will be holding a free shredding event.

Final Words

Keeping your identity safe may take a few extra steps. However, taking these measures now is easier and takes less time than trying to clean up your credit after your identity has been stolen.