Whether you go online to check your bank balance, pay a bill, give money, shop or sell something, these six rules can help you keep the risks to a minimum.
Defend your computer against Internet threats
• Help protect your online transactions by using firewall, antivirus, and antispyware software. Encrypt your wireless connection at home. Keep all software (including your web browser) current with automatic updates.
Create strong passwords
• Strong passwords are easy for you to remember but difficult for others to guess. They are at least 14 characters long and include numbers, symbols, and upper and lower case letters.
o Keep passwords and PINs secret. Do not share them in email, instant messages, or over the phone.
o Use unique passwords for bank accounts and other important financial information. Avoid using the same password for everything. If someone steals that password, all the information that the password protects is at risk.
Find the web address yourself
• Links in email messages, text messages, instant messages, or pop-up ads can take you to websites that look legitimate but are not. To visit websites, type the address yourself or use your own bookmark or favorite.
Look for signs that your information is safe
• Before you enter sensitive data on a web page, ensure that:
- The site uses encryption, a security measure that helps protect your data as it travels the internet. Signs of encryption include a web address with https ("s" stands for secure) and a closed padlock beside it or in the lower right corner of the page.
Save financial transactions for your home computer
• Never pay bills, bank, shop, or do other financial business on a public or shared computer or on devices such as a laptop or mobile phones that are on public wireless networks. The security is unreliable.
Use common sense
• To protect yourself against fraud, watch out for scams. For example, be wary of deals that sound too good to be true, alerts from your "bank" that your account will be closed unless you take some immediate action, notices that you have won a lottery, or a refusal to meet in person for a local transaction.
• Typically this kind of message, whether sent by computer or phone, is designed to entice you to visit a phony website where criminals collect your financial data.