If you’re on Manilla, chances are you’re like me and have set up online accounts with all of your financial institutions. Online bill pay is great because it makes things easy, but you still have to be savvy about protecting your information. Here are my tips on making sure you’re not an easy target for an online thief:
1. Don’t use the same password for every account. On the suggestion of one of my colleagues, I use one password for all of my not-so-important accounts, another password for my social networks, and a special one for online bill pay and other sensitive accounts.
2. Change your password every six months. Is it a pain? Maybe. Is having someone steal your bank account information a pain? Yes, yes yes.
3. Password protect your computer and handheld. Don’t let someone close to you get your information by logging into your account from your smartphone, or installing malware on your computer. This is even more important if you instruct your browser to remember your passwords to certain websites.
4. Don’t click without thinking. I know you’ve gotten those Nigerian scam emails—they’re pretty obvious. But scams emails are getting trickier to spot, because they look like they come from a friend or a coworker. If your friend emails you saying she got mugged in Spain, don’t wire her money right away. Check and see if she’s actually in Spain first. Also, take a hard look at the language to see if it sounds like something she would say. The language may be stilted or not quite right.
Also beware of Facebook postings and tweets saying something like “I found this picture of you online,” or “Someone said something bad about you in a blog.” It’s tempting, but contact that person some other way to see if they really meant to send it to you. Also be wary of any emails from companies asking for private information. Call the company if you have doubts to verify.
5. Do a check up. Check your credit card statements and other bills once a month for any fraudulent charges, and follow up with your company no matter how small they are. (Some thieves will test you with a $0.55 purchase to see if you notice). Also request your free credit report three times a year to check for unexpected changes to your report, such as loans you don’t remember taking out.
6. Look for third party verification. Trustworthy sites will always have a badge denoting that third party checked them out and found their security to be top notch. Three ones to look for: Verisign Secured, TRUSTe and McAfee Secure, three verifications that both LearnVest and Manilla have.
Alexa Von Tobel is the founder and CEO of LearnVest, the leading personal finance site for women.