We shop online; we bank online, we pay our bills online. Online transactions are an easy way for us to manage our busy lives. However with the increased use of online interactions there has also been an increased risk in our personal information being compromised or stolen.
The goal isn’t to frighten anyone away from online transactions. Truthfully, in this busy world it might seem silly to avoid shopping or banking online. In many ways, online transactions help people with fiscal responsibility. It’s easier to stay within your spending plan. You have time to carefully consider transactions without a sales clerk pressuring you to purchase before “the sale ends”. You can easily monitor financial activities and spot trends. Working online isn’t the enemy. Completing financial transactions without thinking about protecting yourself is the problem.
Here are two realities about shopping online: First, if you aren’t shopping or banking much on the internet now, you probably will in the future. It’s only going to become more prevalent. Second, as more transactions move online, it becomes increasingly important to protect your information.
Here are some tips to keep your money safe while you’re working online:
- Never shop or bank on public computers. These are complex machines that have the ability to store your credit card information so someone else can grab it later. You’re information is much more vulnerable if you use public wireless internet services, such as wi-fi available at coffee houses, restaurants, and the library. These networks can be more easily penetrated leaving your information and transactions at risk which can lead to identity theft.
- Be creative with passwords. Do not use the same password for your bank account or ATM that you use for Amazon or EBay. Avoid using your birthdate, Social Security number, or mother’s maiden name. These are commonly used passwords that can easily be exploited.
- Change your passwords periodically like you’d change the batteries in your smoke alarm. Sometimes criminals will gain access to your passwords but not use them immediately so if your computer suddenly displays a pop-up window telling you that your computer is unsafe, don’t click on the link. These messages could install programs on your computer that allow access to your files.
- Don’t click links sent in unsolicited emails, even if they mention retailers you trust or your bank. These scams are becoming more prevalent, and are called “phishing” expeditions: A well-known logo is lifted from a company many people trust and a blanket email is sent telling you that your password is out of date and you’ll need to follow the link to change it. The link will send you to a very official looking website asking you for personal information. Believing it’s authentic, people hand over their birthdate, Social Security Number, bank account, credit card information and more. The thieves who were “phishing” caught a nice one!
- Only shop from well-known, reputable retailers that you trust. Look for signs of encryption when making purchases online, such as a lock symbol on your internet browser. Although this doesn’t guarantee your safety, it means the business you’re working with worries about internet safety and has safeguards in place to help protect your identity and financial information.
If you’re one of the many people doing more and more everyday online, there is no need to panic. Just consider the measures listed above to make sure your online transactions go smoothly.
The Actors Fund offers a complete financial wellness program, free for everyone in performing arts and entertainment. We invite you to learn more and participate in our series of seminars and workshops, designed to support you in the implementation of a personalized financial plan of action. Learn more about our Financial Wellness Program.