How to Check a Balance Online Safely

Woman on couch using a laptop
Image Credit: Anatoliy Babiy/iStock/Getty Images

Checking your bank account online is a lot more simple, convenient and efficient than visiting a bank branch or ATM, or calling a customer service number. However, doing so could put your account at risk unless you take some safety measures. Check your account regularly and contact your bank immediately if you notice any activity that you did not initiate.

Secure Internet Connection

A wireless Internet connection sends Wi-Fi signals beyond your home. Hackers can easily access your network and financial data if your connection is not protected. You can do so with an encryption protocol that scrambles data that goes in and out of your computer. Common security protocols include WEP, WPA and WPA2. WPA2 is the most secure, while WEP is the least secure, according to a December 2013 USA Today article. If you use a router, change the default password to something that no one can easily guess. The default username and password for several routers are available on the Internet. Anyone can find yours and then enter your network and gain access to your data. With these adjustments, your network is more secure.

Computer Software

Your computer could also be a source of data compromise. If your anti-virus software is not up-to-date, it could get infected with malware. These malicious programs can come from websites or email. Some of them are designed to log your keystrokes and send the data, such as your banking information, back to the creator. To avoid an infection, install an anti-virus program and keep it current. Also, install updates for your operating system and installed programs as they become available.

Secure Website

Ensure you have typed in the correct web address for your bank before you enter your login information. There are copycat websites designed to look like various bank portals with addresses that are close to those of the real sites. The goal is to capture your information when you sign in so the owner can gain access to your account. When you are at the right site, ensure that it is secure. Banks typically use encryption programs that scramble data flowing between your computer and their servers. Look for a lock in the URL bar, which indicates security. Clicking on this lock should display information about the bank.

Passwords

Avoid passwords that would be easy to guess and ensure that you change them often. Some websites offer a two-step password verification system for additional security. These vary by provider. For instance, you might have to enter a pass phrase after signing in or enter a code sent to your phone. Take advantage of this system if your bank offers it.

Phishing Emails

Be wary if you receive an email, purportedly from your bank, asking you to click a link to sign into your account or provide personal information such as your Social Security number. Your bank will never send such a message and would call or send a letter if there are issues you need to address. Clicking the link in phishing emails like this will take you to a copycat site where the owner can capture your username and password. Visit your bank's website directly instead.

references