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Sunday 6 March 2016

How to Protect Your Financial Data from Hackers

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We all know that handing our credit card over to a stranger can be a bad choice. But did you know that you may be doing that very thing without even realizing it? If you’ve ever used online banking or stored any sort of financial information on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, you’re leaving your personal details out in the open for hackers to use however they please.
Identity theft was reported as Americans’ number one complaint last year, bringing notice to the fact that this is still a growing problem, despite companies tightening their security measures. Data breaches in the past few years show that even with the security efforts corporations are putting forth, there is still a possibility for your financial data to be compromised. This is why many are starting to take security measures into their own hands, rather than relying on others to do so for them.

Protecting your information can be an easy step to take, as long as you know how. Whether it’s just your financial data that you’re looking to protect, or other personal details, such as your location or internet habits, we’ve put together a simple list of solutions for you. Here’s how you can protect your data from hackers:

Don’t Store Your Financial Info
It’s not uncommon to store your banking details on your computer. If you’ve shopped online before, it’s likely that you have your credit card number stored on whatever website(s) you’ve purchased from in the past. Some online retailers give you the choice as to whether or not you’d like to save your credit card on file for later use, but others will just save it automatically if you sign up for an account.
Although making online payments are usually done over a secured page, there have been data breaches in which hackers have obtained the credit card info of customers because they were saved on a company’s online database. On the bright side, you won’t have to avoid shopping online or making any sort of online payment in the name of security; instead you can simply delete your payment method under your account.
Aside from websites that might have these details stored, you should avoid saving any financial info on your actual computer. This means you shouldn’t store your card number in a Word document, even if it seems convenient. The problem with this type of activity not only lies within the possibility of hackers obtaining the file, but also because you might want to re-sell your device, allow others to use it, or even end up tossing it in the trash one day without formatting it beforehand.

What If You Can’t Avoid It?
Sometimes you might need to store some of your financial data online or on your computer regardless of the security risks involved. In this case, it’s wise to take some steps to ensure that it won’t be hacked into or somehow obtained by someone who shouldn’t have it. For starters, don’t share your computer with anyone who isn’t a close family member.
It would also be helpful to disguise any files that might be used to store this sort of info. For example, don’t store it on your desktop, and don’t label the file in a way that would make others realize what it contains (it’s best not to label it “Credit Card Numbers”). If possible, always use a program that will allow you to enable password protection on your files.
Another tip that can help is to always remember to log out of your online accounts. Besides logging out, you should avoid storing your passwords on your computer. Additionally, there are a couple programs that can help you as well.

Software That Can Help
You’re likely to have an anti-virus program already installed, but even so, here’s a recommendation: Panda Free Antivirus. The anti-virus programs that your computer typically comes with by default will ask you to pay after your free trial is up, whereas you could just download one yourself that is completely free to use and will still offer the usual benefits. If you happen to be using a smartphone or tablet, there are mobile versions of free anti-virus programs available as well.

When it comes to protecting your data from hackers, an anti-virus alone isn’t likely to do the job. Paired with a VPN, you will have the ultimate combo of security installed on your device. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, VPN stands for Virtual Private Network. A VPN encrypts all of your internet traffic and acts as a secure tunnel to a remote server, which will keep your information anonymous when you’re connected to the net. When you visit websites, the website picks up on your IP address and location. If you’re connected to a VPN while visiting the site, the VPN’s IP address will show in place of yours, as well as the location of the VPN server.

Since you’ll be using an encrypted connection, it’s extremely unlikely for a hacker to bother spending the time and energy needed in order to try to hack into your computer (or your other devices because VPNs are available for smartphones and tablets too).

Watch Out For Scams
One of the biggest problems I’ve seen people have when it comes to the internet is online scams. Some of these scams are so common that you’ll even see them mentioned on daytime television, and they often have a lot to do with your finances. The most common one is known as the 419 Scam, which usually presents itself in the form of a letter or email suggesting that someone either wants to become your business partner, or they need some sort of help from a kind heart who is willing to front some money until they can receive their millions.

Of course, they also mention that they are going to share these millions with you as well. The easiest way to deal with this is to never, ever give out your financial information to people you meet online. Legitimate companies or businesspeople would never ask for your banking information through emails, nor would they ask for you to wire any money for them so they can access their savings.
Be aware that these sorts of scammers are also lurking around on social media and dating websites.

Stay On the Look Out
Lastly, keep an eye out for anything that may seem suspicious on your monthly banking statements. The sooner you catch on to unfamiliar charges on your account, the sooner you’ll be able to solve the problem and potentially save yourself from losing all of the money in your account. It would also be a great idea to change your passwords on a regular basis and ensure that you are using strong passwords; never use the same password for more than one account.

If you take the advice laid out in this article, you shouldn’t have any issues with your financial data being compromised. Just remember that the most important thing is for you to pay attention to your finances; even with security software having your back, you aren’t immune to offline offenders.

This is Guest post by Jen Martinson who is an internet security and data privacy blogger who enjoys helping you make wise financial decisions when shopping, especially online, because, let’s face it, who doesn’t love to veg out in bed and shop!. find her on

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