Banking Online? The Five Worst Mistakes You Can Make

Mistakes in online bankingMany consumers have been banking online for some time now, so the last thing you probably think you might need is a refresher course on just what boneheaded things you shouldn't be doing. On the other hand, it's online banking veterans who may need this list the most -- after all, when you do something over and over again, you can become complacent. Lazy. Less guarded.

That's why we're offering our list of the five worst mistakes you can make while doing your banking online.Mistake #1: Having an Easy-To-Guess Password

Sure, we've all been told this countless times, but just in case you've been ignoring this advice, I thought I'd point out that Imperva, an Internet and data security company, conducted an analysis of 32 million passwords and concluded that the 10 most commonly used passwords are as follows:

  1. 123456
  2. 12345
  3. 123456789
  4. Password
  5. iloveyou
  6. princess
  7. rockyou
  8. 1234567
  9. 12345678
  10. abc123
If you see yours on this list, you might want to come up with something unique. A mix of both letters and numerals is more effective than just one or the other, as is having both uppercase and lowercase letters.

Mistake #2: Using a Public WiFi Hotspot to Access Your Bank Account

I won't pretend I've never done this, but if you want to be safe, you really need to use a secure network. According to the experts, if you routinely check your bank balance over public networks, the odds are good that eventually you're going to run into someone who's looking for people who do just that.

"People generally don't bother to check out the security characteristics of public networks before logging on, plus wireless transmissions can be intercepted by nearby Bluetooth-type devices," warns Richard Barrington, a spokesman for, a website whose purpose is to find and publish the best bank rates.

Robert Siciliano, a McAfee consultant and identity theft expert, told WalletPop that even a public library is suspect (scary for me, since I've definitely accessed my bank account at libraries before). So what's the problem?

Siciliano says, "The PCs [at libraries] are subject to viruses and spyware that you have no control over."

Mistake #3: Revealing Too Much Personal Information on Facebook or Other Social Networks

According to Lisa Robinson, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo Internet Services Group who specializes in fraud prevention and online security, one of the biggest mistakes people make is revealing too much personal information that an online thief can then use to guess your password -- or the answers to one of the security questions designed to keep online crooks out of your account.

"It's important to be careful sharing your pet's name, your children's names, or the name of the high school you attended, especially if you use this information as account passwords or answers to security questions," says Robinson. "Never share your mother's maiden name, your Social Security number, your bank account numbers, or your user names or passwords for any account."

If you have shared this information, you're setting yourself up to be taken to the cleaners.

Mistake #4: Not Having Virus Protection on Your Computer

It's too easy to simply think, "I don't need virus protection because I'm too smart to click on a link with a virus." But that's one of the dumbest lapses in judgment you can have, according to Sol Nasisi, chief economist at the banking web site, Besides being chief economist at BCC, Nasisi used to be the senior vice president of online marketing at a major bank, so he has a very good understanding of exactly how people can shoot themselves in the foot when banking online.

"[Common viruses like] trojans and worms can infect your computer and use keystrokes and other tactics to get your bank credentials," says Nasisi.

And in case you need to be reminded, Nasisi points out that if you receive an email from "your bank" asking for your security information, well, it's probably not your bank.

Mistake #5: Not Checking Your Accounts

It's a shame we live in this type of world, but anyone who does any sort of banking really should check their accounts -- both checking and savings -- on a regular basis just to make sure there's no suspicious activity on your accounts. Once a day would be ideal, but at a bare minimum, you should check them at least once a month, right after you get your bank statements.

As Nasisi says, banks are required by law (it's called Regulation E) to pay any losses beyond $50 that occur because of identity theft or some other kind of online banking theft. But you have to contact the bank "within two days of receiving a statement," says Nasisi. "So stay on top of your account."

Geoff Williams is a regular contributor at WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the book Living Well with Bad Credit.
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