15 Tips for Secure Online Financial Transactions

by Jamie Simmerman · 5 comments

Online payment

Online banking and shopping are some of the perks of our tech-savvy culture. But providing financial information for online activities can put your money (and your identity) at risk. The key to safe online financial transactions is to be informed and cautious.

Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while shopping and banking online.

How to Make Your Online Financial Transactions Secure

  1. Don’t use the same user name and passwords for all of your accounts.
  2. Choose a strong password filled with numbers, symbols, and lowercase/uppercase letters.
  3. Keep track of your account info in a non-digital place, such as a notebook in your fire safe. This prevents hackers from seeing a list of all your passwords if they gain access to your computer, phone, or tablet.
  4. Change your passwords every 1-3 months. The more often, the better.
  5. Always keep up-to-date antivirus and firewall security programs. Scan your computer frequently and check to make sure your firewall is turned on before shopping online, paying bills, or accessing your bank accounts.
  6. If you get a request from your financial institution to provide account details, don’t click any links in the contact email. Call your institution directly (not by using the contact information in the suspicious email) and verify the validity of the request.
  7. Don’t give out your social security number. If a medical provider or other institution requests it, ask why they need it first. Some institutions just use this as an easy identifier, and another number can be substituted instead. If the institution’s records are hacked, the hacker can gain access to your financial information through your social security number. They can even take out a line of credit in your name without you knowing.
  8. Use a trusted third-party service, such as PayPal, to help protect your private information during online transactions. These sites provide dispute services and secure financial transactions for a small fee.
  9. All online transactions should take place on a website whose address begins with: https://. The “s” means the site is secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t trust the vendor.
  10. Always log out after accessing your shopping or banking accounts, then close your browser. Don’t allow your computer to store your usernames and passwords for shopping and banking sites.
  11. Check your password recovery options often and keep the information up to date. If the website offers additional security, such as two-step verification, take them up on the added services. Any layers of protection you can add to your financial accounts can slow down or deter hackers.
  12. Consider using prepaid debit cards for your online shopping transactions.
  13. If something looks suspicious, get offline and shut down your computer immediately. Trust your instincts.
  14. Don’t use one-click or easy-pay payment options. Make sure every transaction requires your password.
  15. Don’t use public wifi when performing online transactions. Do your shopping at home, from your own computer.

What tips do you have for secure online financial transactions? 

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Phyl March 28, 2013 at 8:47 am

Great advice, one question. What can I do about the doctor’s office, hospital, etc. that already have my SS number from years before? Can I request that they delete it from their files and are they under any obligation to do so upon request?

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Thad March 29, 2013 at 7:49 am

The only one I would even argue with is the one about public wifi. While it is true that standard (as in “http”) web traffic is unencrypted and thus visible, the SSL traffic (“https”) is encrypted end to end even on public wifi.

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Jillian April 2, 2013 at 10:50 am

This is a great piece, with 15 excellent tips. While #15 is 100% true: public WiFi is not secure and hackers (or anyone for that matter) can easily intercept your data, there is a way to stay secure that you didn’t mention. By employing a Virtual Private Network (VPN) a user can keep all their communication secure through a private tunnel and thus, even if they are on an insecure network, they are safe.

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annie g April 3, 2013 at 6:22 am

I would add:

Don’t use true answers to security questions. Too much personal info is available online or (unfortunately) known to unscrupulous friends and relative. Instead make up answers and keep good records. For example, no one is likely to guess that your grandfather’s middle name was “Caroline”!

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@pfinMario April 3, 2013 at 7:41 am

Great tips although #2 isn’t necessarily true. Strange characters don’t make a password much harder for a robot to crack; they just make it harder for a human to remember the password.

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