Don't Miss These Critical Online Banking Safety & Security Tips from Our Experts

Online banking is more popular now than it ever has been. Its popularity is related both to the public's embrace of technology and to the COVID-19 pandemic that has kept most of us at home and made it a necessity to use online resources.

At Addition Financial, we have encouraged our members to take advantage of online banking. One of the most common concerns we hear from our members is about online banking safety tips and cyber security. People want to ensure their personal information and money are secure when they bank online.

We've compiled our best online security tips and reached out to some experts to provide you with the information you need to manage your money safely online.

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Use Secure Passwords and Change Them Frequently

Our first online banking tip comes from Deborah Goldberg, a Personal Finance Expert at She told us:

"Make sure you are changing passwords regularly and keep all banking data password-protected even if it is stored on your phone or personal device. You might want to look into a personal password manager."

While this tip probably isn't new to you, we have included it because some of our members have admitted that they sometimes use the same password for multiple accounts or use passwords that could be stronger.

As a reminder, your online banking password should include a combination of uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and special characters. Special characters include accents and other punctuation marks such as exclamation points or dollar signs.

We recommend the use of a password manager if you're someone who has difficulty remembering strong passwords. LastPass is a free tool that will store your passwords for you and generate strong passwords as needed.

Sign Up for Fraud and Spending Alerts

Our next piece of advice about online banking safety comes from Mason Miranda, a Credit Industry Specialist with Credit Card Insider. He told us:

"Some institutions text and email alerts for potential fraud. These can be extremely helpful in avoiding any money being stolen."

It is common for consumers who have been victims of fraud or who suspect they might be to sign up for text and email alerts with their credit union or bank. However, many financial institutions allow account holders to sign up preemptively.

The benefit of signing up is that you'll get notifications of any spending on your account. Early notification gives you the opportunity to stop fraud as soon as it starts and eliminate any potential financial liability for yourself.

Take Advantage of Multi-Factor Authentication

What would happen if your password fell into the hands of cyber criminals? Tyler Boyd is the Chief Strategy Officer of Squeeze. He offers up this advice:

"Many [financial institutions] allow you to enable multi factor authentication, so even if your password gets leaked, your account will still be secure."

Multi-factor authentication requires an extra step to access your online accounts. For most bank accounts, the popular option is receiving a texted code that you must enter to access your account. Only someone in possession of both your password and your phone would be able to access the account.

Another option, which is most often used for mobile banking apps, is the use of a biometric scan – usually a fingerprint – to protect your account. Signing up for multi-factor authentication adds an extra layer of protection to shield your financial information from thieves and hackers.

Keep Your Mobile Device Secure

Deborah Goldberg offered us another cyber security tip that has to do with accessing your accounts on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet. Here's what she told us:

"Keep your devices updated and never connect to your bank or financial institution's app or accounts over public networks."

This tip encompasses two pieces of important advice. The first is to keep your devices updated. We know it can be annoying to update your phone or tablet but it's essential to install updates when they become available. Some updates are cosmetic but many include security patches that protect your device.

The second is to limit your use of mobile devices to secure networks. While we're all accustomed to using our phones in public, you should not access sensitive information - aka your credit union or bank account – on a public network. The same is true of credit card accounts. Public networks are less secure than private networks and using them may leave your financial information vulnerable to identity theft.

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Take Advantage of Card Locks

Mason Miranda offered us a second tip that can help you make the most of your financial institution's app. He said:

"Some card issuers allow you to lock and unlock your credit card through the app. This can be helpful to avoid fraud, or even help you control your spending."

Card locks can be used in two ways. The first is to use it preemptively, which would involve keeping your card locked most of the time and unlocking it only when you use it. This option may be cumbersome because you will need to log into your mobile app and unlock your card any time you need it. 

The second option is to lock your card if you misplace it or believe someone has stolen your information. The lock will prevent anybody from using your card without authorization and give you time to find it or report a problem to your financial institution.

Don't Click on Emailed Links to Access Your Account

One of our biggest fraud concerns related to internet safety for Addition Financial members is the use of phishing emails to steal account information. A phishing email is an email that asks the recipient to click a link to access their account. These links usually lead to "spoofed" websites that look identical to a financial institution's website.

The tactics employed by people who send phishing emails are nefarious and designed to trick people by scaring them. A phishing email may tell you that your account has been suspended or that there has been fraud on your account. 

If you receive an email that looks like it is from your credit union or bank, do not click on the link. Instead, type the address of your financial institution's website into your browser. You can also tell where the link is going by hovering your mouse over the link and looking at the bottom of your screen if you're on a computer. You should see the URL where the link is going displayed there.

Be wary of any extra words in the URL. For example, the root of your credit union's real URL might be mycreditunion. A spoofed link might say real.mycreditunion. It is best to be suspicious and remember that no legitimate financial institution is going to email you asking for your password, PIN, or social security number.

Log Out of Your Accounts

When you use your own computer or mobile device, you may not be diligent about logging out of accounts when you have finished using them. The problem with this behavior is that it leaves you vulnerable to session hijacking (when someone accesses your account because you have left it unlocked) or cross-site scripting (when someone adds malicious code to a website).

The best way to prevent unauthorized access and keep your money safe is to get in the habit of logging out when you have finished viewing your online account or transacting business. We recognize that it may be frustrating to enter your password and code (if you're using multi-factor authentication) each time you access your account, but it is the best way to ensure that nobody unauthorized can get to your money.

Monitor Your Account Regularly

Our final tip has to do with account monitoring. While using a strong password, enabling multi-factor authentication and accessing your accounts only on secured networks can all help, there is no substitute for looking at your account activity regularly.

You know when and where you use your card and where you spend money. While many credit unions and banks offer free fraud monitoring for account holders, these services use algorithms and automation to flag suspicious activity. They may not catch every fraudulent transaction that occurs, when it occurs.

For the sake of safety, we suggest logging into your accounts and reviewing your most recent transactions at least once a week. We have some members who monitor their accounts daily. The benefit of doing it daily is that you will likely have only a few transactions to review and won't need to spend long doing it.

Account monitoring is a common-sense precaution you can take to minimize your personal liability for fraudulent transactions and augment the other online banking safety tips we have included here.

Online banking safety is a critical issue. We recommend that all Addition Financial members do whatever they can to secure their accounts and protect themselves from hackers and would-be thieves. The online security tips we have included here can help you keep your finances safe and avoid fraud.

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The content provided here is not legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. Please consult with legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific needs or questions you may have. We do not make any guarantees as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not support any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability or legal obligations for your use of this information.