5 min read

Six tips to stay safe online when using financial technology

It’s never been easier to manage your financial life digitally. Banks, credit card companies, investment platforms, you name it – they almost all now have smart digital tools to help you manage your money through your laptop or mobile device.

A person entering their card details onto a mobile device

Technology companies are now firmly in the financial space. Digital payment options like Apple Pay and Google Wallet are popular among consumers who want to pay for things using their smartphone or smartwatch in just one tap. Around 57% of UK consumers say they use digital money transfer and payment services, putting them in the top five markets that are enthusiastic adopters of fintech, according to research from EY. But how do you stay safe online while using these financial technologies?

Why is it important to stay safe online?

We may like to use financial technology to handle our day-to-day money matters, but that’s not to say we shouldn’t have concerns about security. As the financial world has moved online, fraudsters have found more ingenious ways to get their hands on your data and your cash.

With cyberattacks and data breaches commonplace – even for big financial brands like Equifax, Lloyds Bank, Wonga and Tesco Bank – it’s never been more important to protect yourself. Here are some top tips to help you stay safe online.

Get anti-virus software on your phone

Most people know it’s important to keep their laptop or PC up to date with the latest anti-virus software, but many forget about protecting their phone. If you’re using a lot of financial apps and visiting mobile banking or payment sites, for example, you should install an anti-malware programme and keep it up to date.

Just make sure the software is genuine and made by a reputable company. Adjust your phone’s security and privacy settings, change your passcode regularly, and keep your operating system updated to give you extra protection.

Learn to spot scams

Phishing scams are becoming scarily sophisticated. A growing type of fraud is vishing, also known as ‘voice phishing’, when someone calls you pretending to be from your bank. They can even encourage you to hang up and call your bank’s real phone number. You put the phone down, but they stay on the line.

When you call the bank, you’re still talking to the fraudster, who will now mine all your financial information to steal money from your accounts. They may know a lot about you and your recent transactions, making them sound extra convincing. Or they might say they are a police officer, claim you have been a victim of fraud, and ask you to confirm your details. Always be suspicious of cold callers and anyone who asks you to transfer money and, if you do call them back, use a different phone.

Find out more about how to spot an investment scam >

Never follow links from emails ‘from your bank’

As a general rule, never enter your details on a web page when you’ve followed a link to it through an email or a social media message, even if it looks like it’s from your bank. Banks don’t send emails directing you to their login pages, so this kind of link will most likely be a scam.

Instead, you should go to the bank’s homepage directly by typing the URL into your browser. Look for ‘https’ before the URL – the ‘s’ stands for secure so it should be the genuine website, which you can trust.

Embrace biometrics

Stop using your mother’s maiden name as your password or your partner’s date of birth as your passcode. These are easily guessed. You can get programmes which generate new passwords for you for each website you log in to, they will usually be a random combination of letters, numbers and symbols which is much harder to crack.

Be sure to take advantage of any biometric technology your bank offers – like fingerprint or voice recognition – to log-in, as this should offer better protection against fraud.

Avoid public Wi-Fi networks

If you ever use public Wi-Fi hotspots such as those in town centres, libraries or coffee shops, avoid doing any financial transactions or making purchases while you’re connected. That’s because it is much easier for criminals to use spyware to intercept data sent across public networks and public computers.

Even the Wi-Fi link you click could be bogus, so it’s probably safer to get online using your phone’s data allowance instead.

Be careful what you put on social media

Social media can be really useful for managing your money. There is now budgeting software which can link your bank transactions to Facebook Messenger, for example, to send you insights about your spending.

With sensitive information potentially accessible, you need to take extra care when using social media. Don’t add anyone as a friend if you don’t know them. Avoid putting details like your date of birth, address or phone number on social media to reduce the risk of identity theft.

Be careful of revealing personal information in the photos you post as well – imagine you’ve just enjoyed a meal at a nice restaurant and you snap a photo for Instagram, not realising your debit card is in full view on the table in front of you. It’s not hard for someone to zoom in and grab your card details.

 

Written by Hannah Smith – Financial Journalist

Note: Whilst we take care to ensure Talking Finance content is accurate at the time of publication, individual circumstances can differ so please don’t rely on it when making financial decisions. The opinions expressed within this blog are those of the author and not necessarily of OneFamily.