Protecting Your Online Brokerage Accounts and Bank Accounts:

12 mistakes to avoid to safeguard your online brokerage accounts and bank accounts: Internet ScamBusters #175

Today we help you safeguard your money and your personal information when you use online brokerage and bank accounts. We pinpoint 12 very common mistakes people make — and how to avoid them.

Protecting Your Online Brokerage Accounts and Bank Accounts: 12 Mistakes to Avoid

There are a lot of benefits for online banking and online brokerage accounts. It’s certainly very convenient. Getting the status of your account activity is just a matter of logging onto a website and looking at your account details.

But does having such easy access to your brokerage and bank accounts put you at an increased risk of theft or fraud?

Yes, if you’re not very careful.

If you want to make sure that your money is safe and sound, you’re going to need to take some steps to protect yourself. Here are 12 common mistakes — and how to avoid them:

1. Don’t Leave the Door Unlocked

If you don’t want someone to break into your home, you lock the door. The same certainly applies to your Internet banking and brokerage accounts!

If you don’t want someone spying on your every move and stealing valuable information — including login information to your brokerage and bank accounts — make sure you have up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware programs running on your computer. Only log in to secure webpages. Use a firewall.

We’ve talked about this extensively in previous issues of ScamBusters. These are “must have” programs for people accessing online brokerage and banking websites.

2. Don’t Select the Obvious

Many people make the mistake of choosing passwords that are quite obvious. The name of a pet, the name of a child, or even your own name should never be passwords.

Instead, select a combination of random letters (both upper and lower case), symbols and numbers and memorize the combination. Change your password at least every three months.

This will help ensure that your passwords remain safe, and that unauthorized people can’t access your accounts.

3. Avoid Password Laziness

Many Internet browsers offer to “remember” your user name and password when you visit a site that requires you to log in. This enables you to re-visit those sites without having to remember or enter your user name and password.

While this may seem like a convenient tool, it can be damaging to the security of your brokerage and bank accounts.

Don’t choose the option for your browser to remember the passwords for your brokerage and bank accounts. This is especially important for laptops, since they can easily be stolen.

4. Don’t Fall for Phishing Schemes

There are many phishing scams that appear to come from banks and online brokerage companies. We’ve talked about phishing in many issues of ScamBusters. For more info on phishing, click here.

Many people fall for these scams because it appears as though the email is really coming from their financial institution. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

In order to protect yourself, never, ever respond to an email request for personal information. No legitimate company is going to ask you to provide personal information via email.

If you’re in doubt and you think your financial institution really does need information from you, pick up the phone and call them directly. Or you can log into their website by typing the address into your browser.

Don’t ever give personal information via email or click on a link from a phishing email that goes to a bogus website.

5. Terminate Open Sessions

Many people don’t realize that when you log in to a website, the session doesn’t automatically terminate when you leave the site you’re visiting.

If you’ve logged into a website, you’re going to want to physically log out before leaving the site to go elsewhere. This is especially important when you leave bank and brokerage websites. Every banking and brokerage site we’ve seen has a sign out or log out button.

If you don’t log out, you could be leaving your account open to others who shouldn’t have access.

6. Avoid Shared Computers

Never, ever log in to your bank or brokerage accounts from an Internet kiosk, Internet cafe or any public computer. It’s best to avoid logging in from computers at work.

If you really want to keep your brokerage and bank accounts safe, you should avoid accessing the accounts from any shared computer. Wait until you’re on your own computer before logging on.

7. Be Very Wary of Wireless Connections

While wireless Internet connections are quite convenient, they have serious security issues. Don’t access personal bank and brokerage accounts via a wireless connection or when at an Internet hot spot. You can read more about this here.

8. Don’t Share

We’re taught to share from the time we’re toddlers, but passwords are one thing that you should never share!

Don’t give your brokerage or bank account passwords out to anyone. Only by keeping the passwords to yourself will you be able to help ensure the integrity of your accounts.

9. Don’t Ignore Your Statements

When you receive your brokerage or bank account statements, read them over carefully.

We once knew a man who would throw his statements into a file cabinet the moment they arrived in the mail. He never even glanced at them, until one day he started bouncing checks.

Unbeknownst to him, someone had hacked into his account and had been making regular withdrawals. Unfortunately, he didn’t catch it until it was much too late.

By diligently reviewing your brokerage and bank account statements, you can avoid meeting the same fate.

10. Don’t Download Unnecessary Programs

Be very careful what you download via the Web or email. While you may think you’re downloading an innocent program, or even something as simple as a picture or a song, you could actually be downloading malicious software.

As we’ve warned many times before, if you don’t want a criminal spying on every move you make on your computer and gaining access to your personal information, including your brokerage and bank accounts, be VERY careful about what you download.

11. Check Your Credit Report

If someone is trying to steal your identity or gain access to your accounts, some of the first telltale signs may show up on your credit report.

By checking your credit report on a regular basis, you’ll become aware of any suspicious activity, and you may be able to take measures to correct the problem before your bank and brokerage accounts are affected.

To find out how to check your free credit report, click here.

12. Be Quick to Take Action

You don’t have to wait for your monthly statements to come out in order to keep tabs on your brokerage and bank accounts.

Log into your bank and brokerage accounts on a regular basis, and you’ll be able to catch any unauthorized activity right away. That’s one of the benefits of online banking!

If you do notice any suspicious activity in your bank or brokerage accounts, notify your financial institution immediately so measures can be taken to correct the problem.

For more tips on keeping your banking and online brokerage accounts safe, visit now.

Time to wrap up. We have an important Snippet for you next week that’s a bit different, so be sure to watch for it.