There are concerns and some risks, now that more financial transactions are online, including banking, shopping and even managing investments. However, the increasing prevalence of identity theft makes it a real necessity to protect your online transactions from identity thieves and scammers.
Banking and Financial Transaction Tips:
Make online purchases only on secure sites. Look for a lock icon at the bottom of your browser, which verifies you are purchasing on a secure site. The ADDRESS LINE (URL), at the top of the screen should NOT just say "HTTP", but rather "HTTPS", indicating a secure website.
Use a simple password only on unimportant websites. If you are doing a purchase, or credit card, or similarly serious act, be sure to use a secure complex password too. That means at least 8 characters, composed of numbers, text, and special characters, that have no identifiable or readable word (or cute combo, like "cre8tiv!". Change your password every few months. Do NOT use the same password on more than one website. If you absolutely cannot remember your multiple passwords, you could use the same first 8 characters combined with the website name, such as "x3%stx4" combined to be "x3%stx4CivicBank" then similarly use "x3%stx4WellsFargoBank". That would provide some serious security, but still allow you to remember a complex password. Remember, that when you change a password, ALL passwords should be changed as well.
Check your credit report. The law says that you are eligible to receive one free credit report every year. Get copies from all three of the major reporting agencies to check for any unauthorized accounts that may have been opened in your name. Be careful that you do not accidentally agree to continued services when you sign up for the report. The continued services are virtually worthless, and difficult or impossible to stop, once authorized.
Set alerts. Most banks allow you to set free alerts on your accounts, so you can receive an email if your balance goes below a certain level or for purchases over a set amount.
Firewalls are only partially effective. The best firewall is automatically in effect when you buy a router. Routers only cost about $45 and in most cases, you only have to plug-in the power, the cable (or phone line), and the cable to your computer. The new wireless routers and other internet enabled devices are pretty simple too. This is a great way to be safe at home, but in public places, your mobile net connections are easily snooped upon, and should not be trusted. To guarantee a secure network, Make sure your home wireless network is secure by following instructions for your wireless router on how to lock the router.
Portable Computers and Mobile Transactions
Donít store personal information on public computers. If you use a computer at a coffee shop, hotel, airplane, or cafe, make sure you log out completely from your accounts and that your login data has not been stored on that computer.
Email and SPAM Filters
Install spam filtering software on your computer and only use quality email accounts such as Gmail, Hotmail, or Yahoo. Do NOT use known problematic email providers, such as the cable companies or AOL.
Install antivirus software on your computer. Don't use Norton or McAfee. Use programs recommended by the computer tech shows or the test sites. They cost less, and are much safer.
Utilize optional security questions, but donít automatically choose the first security question. Instead, use another question that an identity thief probably wouldnít know, like the name of your first pet or first friend. Better yet, use your answer combined with a number such as "555-1212Martha".
Most people do not remember to make backups or know how to do it. You can use an automatic program like Carbonite, or buy an external backup hard drive. Many of the backup hard drives have already installed the automatic software to do backups, and will be working instantly upon plugin.
Duplicates and Copies
The idea of having copies and duplicates is only effective and safe if you follow the rules. The simple rules are:
THREE different dated backups
THREE different places
That does NOT mean 3 copies in different rooms of your house. Better to keep one in the house, one in the car, and one at a relative's house. Three dates means something like one for today, one for two weeks ago, and one for a month ago.
The good news is that it is very fast to do this if you ONLY make copies of the data, rather than copies of all the programs and computer settings. This protects the most valuable items... the personal data. Backups will be very fast, unless you have thousands of songs, or hundreds of movies to be backed up too.
You could backup the whole computer, including the operating system, drivers, programs, settings, and layouts (or an image of the whole computer at least once, to use as a reset method to easily restore your computer to a safe time and place. Professionals make an image when the computer is new, then again when worthwhile (like once a month, or once a year). You can imagine how worthwhile this could be to reconstruct thousands of family photos, and lots of financial history, and tax returns, and bank records. Anything can happen...fire, theft, hard disk crash, virus, trojan horse, accidental deletion, flood, unhappy family member, hacker, or worse.