Edward Snowden made waves internationally with his revelations
about the electronic snooping the U.S. government does into
personal communications. But government spooks aren't the only
people who may be trying to peer over your shoulder digitally.
The growth of electronic banking has spurred growth in the
number and sophistication of criminals using computers to pry into
the private accounts of people and businesses. Getting taken by one
of these criminals may not be as traumatic as an on-street mugging,
but it can be every bit as costly.
Here are some things you can do to protect your accounts from
Cover the keypad.
Behind you at the ATM or in line at the supermarket checkout,
there may be someone waiting to casually observe your PIN for
future use. Don't even bother looking behind you -- whatever the
situation, get in the habit of using your free hand to screen the
keypad as you type in your PIN.
Take a good look at that gas pump.
Thieves are increasingly using credit card skimmers -- devices
that look like card readers, but that secretly transmit your
credit card information to their operators. If the card reader at
a gas pump seems loose-fitting, sticks out more than usual, or
doesn't quite match the surrounding equipment, notify a station
employee -- and don't insert your card!
Don't use public networks to view sensitive financial
Online savings accounts
and checking accounts may be increasingly popular, but pick your
spots to check your account. Public networks are typically not as
secure as those at home or your place of business.
Don't broadcast your information.
Another drawback of accessing sensitive information in public is
that if you are using a WiFi hotspot, scammers can use
Bluetooth-like devices to pick up the information you are
transmitting from your computer to the network.
Always log off when finished.
Wherever and whenever you access your account, always log off the
bank site when you are done. Logging off is like locking the door
when you leave the house: It doesn't make breaking in impossible,
but at least you won't have made it easy.
Know what's in your wallet.
Periodically make a photocopy of the
in your wallet, and keep it in a secure place. This will help you
quickly identify the cards and the numbers that need to be
reported if your wallet is stolen or missing.
Go through credit card statements line-by-line.
Don't just look at the total amount you owe -- check out each
transaction on your credit card bill to spot anything unusual.
Some scammers are subtle enough to use card information for a
series of transactions that are small enough to go unnoticed, so
they can continue to bleed accounts over time.
Balance your checking account.
This involves a statement review similar to checking your credit
card statement, but balancing the bank's records against your own
is a real double-check for preventing unauthorized transactions
of any type from endangering your
Think of your bank accounts as a pile of money: You wouldn't
invite a stranger into a room with that money just sitting there,
so don't allow criminals to get that kind of ready access to your
money electronically either.