Banking online securely

Not all the dangers in the world are of the organized sort.  Those scam emails about the Nigerian millionaire who needs to deposit money in your account are still going around.  And oh by the way, this person you never heard of is itching to give you thousands of dollars if you help him transfer millions between banks.  You know, even if this scam were real, it is likely that it would be illegal.  It’s called money laundering.  Once they have access to your account number, watch what little money you have disappear.

How do you protect yourself?  Well you could hide all your money under a mattress. Or you could bury your money in the back yard.  Or invest it all in your cousin Crazy Eddy’s iguana guano farm. 

If none of that seems appealing then try more conventional means.

Change your password.  Now change it again.  The first time you changed if from something easy to remember to something easier to remember.  If you did that you may have been hacked while you were reading this article.  Change your password to something hard to remember.  It can’t be in the dictionary.  It must not have any repeating or consecutive letters or numbers.  It should be at least six characters long.  If you are allowed, include special characters like exclamation marks or pound signs.  And yes genius, making an 8 character password that says:  “password” violates the rules I have already given so don’t try it!

Never give anyone, even your spouse your password.  Change your passwords at least once per year.   Never leave your passwords where others might find them.  As one wag once pointed out, we already have the technology to handle small, valuable bits of paper.  We call them purses and wallets. Why not write your passwords down and put them in there?  At least until you memorize them.

Discuss with your banks and brokerage firms under what conditions and how much money can be withdrawn from your account. Get your bank to verify the institution the money is being transferred to and the location. If they can’t they should not do any online transfers to that entity. If possible, tell your bank that you don’t want any money transferred to institutions outside of your home country unless you come into the bank with verifiable identity and have it done personally.  Set some daily limit, the amount is up to you, for transferring money.  Let’s say you do not allow automatic transfers or even bill payments that exceed 10 percent of your account.  Anything over that should require you to go in person to authorize the deal.

Try to avoid anything that is like flashing cash.  For instance, bragging about how much you have or how expensive your last purchase was in a forum filled with strangers is a bad idea. 

Many folks worry about security and privacy on social media websites.  It almost goes without saying that you should never post anything there you don’t want to see on the six o’clock news.