Online and mobile banking is more popular than ever due to COVID-19 restrictions, with many bank branches closed or their operating hours curtailed. It's a good time for a refresher course on keeping you and your money safe when online banking.
Standard measures to take include making sure you have a password on your mobile device and not sharing any of your personal information. Then there are extra steps you can take to provide you with additional protection.
Additional Security When Banking Online
Check deposits: When depositing checks remotely, make sure to track the checks you deposit. And make sure before you click “deposit” you compare the routing and account number on the check to the numbers on the screen.
Many banks have an app that takes a picture of the check to deposit it.
Don’t dispose of the check after you deposit it. Hang onto it until you verify it has cleared and the funds are in your account. I have an envelope that I keep all of these checks in just in case I need them for future reference.
Transferring money: If you are transferring money person-to-person either via your bank or a personal payment app like Venmo, ask the recipient to send you a request for payment if that’s possible. This is especially important when you are sending money to someone for the first time.
If this isn’t an option, consider doing a test by sending a small amount of money, like $1 before transferring a larger amount.
Double-check the amount to make sure it’s correct. And triple-check to make sure you have the correct recipient before you press “send.”
Once, I accidentally sent the money to the wrong person on my list of people and there was nothing the bank could do about it. Luckily, the person sent it back, but that might not always be the case. Electronic transfers do not work like written checks where you can sometimes issue a stop payment. If you receive money through an electronic transfer, don’t assume the funds are available just because they show in your account.
It is free to set up account alerts for payment apps. I especially recommend this for parents who have a joint account with their kids who are in school. This way you are notified if the balance goes below a certain amount, avoiding overdraft fees.
And speaking of overdraft fees, if you have multiple accounts with a bank, see if you can connect the two for overdraft protection. For example, a savings account will transfer money in if you are overdrawn on your checking account.
Watch for phishing emails: It is very easy to fall for emails that appear to be from your bank when in fact they are phishing emails. The logo and address can appear authentic, but it really is a scam to get you to click on a fraudulent link.
Do not click. Go directly to your bank’s website on your own and check for any notifications or call your bank. Check out the FDIC’s recommendations for 10 Scams Targeting Bank Customers.
Don't bank on public networks: Personally, I do not use my computer or phone for banking when I am in a public place. If this is a must, consider subscribing to a VPN service. This may offer an additional level of security.
Banks are overwhelmed with helping customers during this time. Many people are applying for loans from the Paycheck Protection Program, making adjustments to their mortgages or working on lowering their credit card interest rates.
If you aren’t able to reach a real person, check your bank’s website to see if you can set up a time for a banker to call you. I did this the other day and it took a lot of the frustration out of trying to reach a banker.
Read Jeanette Pavini’s column: Mortgage Payments Relief During the Coronavirus Pandemic.
About the author: Jeanette Pavini is an Emmy Award winning journalist specializing in consumer news and protection. Her work includes reporting for CBS, MarketWatch, WSJ Sunday and USA Today. Jeanette has contributed to The Today Show and a variety of other media outlets. You can follow her moneysaving tips on Facebook at Jeanette Pavini: Better Ways to Save Community or go to JeanettePavini.com.