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How to Protect Your Monday and Accounts Online

Mobile Apps Making Deposit Checks a Snap

HOW TO PROTECT YOUR MONEY AND ACCOUNTS ONLINE

Being able to bank or shop online is a great convenience, but you want to be sure you’re protecting yourself before you hit “submit.” If the wrong people access your accounts, you might find yourself with a lot less money than you thought — and a lot of work to set things right. Here are six steps you can take to help make sure that doesn’t happen.

1. DO YOUR ONLINE SHOPPING/BANKING FROM HOME

You’ve probably taken steps to secure your home network, so it makes sense to do most of your online activity there. Public computers are convenient, but be careful about entering passwords and sensitive account information when using these machines. Many will keep your login data in the web browser history, so after you leave, the next person who uses the computer might be able to see what you typed and access your account.

If you’re on your own laptop or mobile device but using public Wi-Fi to access the Internet, you could run into similar issues. You can’t be sure the network you’re on is secure, and if it’s not, a lurking hacker could see any information you send. When you use public Wi-Fi, consider updating the settings on your device to make sure you don’t automatically join networks you won’t use regularly.

If you have to shop or bank online while away from home, consider using a virtual private network, or VPN, service to protect your account information.

2. INSTALL ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE

Many antivirus companies will send security patches to your computer automatically, so you don’t have to be a tech genius to get the most up-to-date protection. In addition to installing an antivirus program, it’s a good idea to check your operating system, web browser and mobile devices to make sure they also have the latest software updates.

3. BE SMART WITH ACCOUNT PASSWORDS

Strong passwords include both uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols, and they can’t easily be guessed. Security experts recommend that you change your passwords at least every few months. Don’t use the same password for multiple accounts, especially your online banking accounts.

4. DON’T SKIMP ON MOBILE SECURITY

Sometimes you may need to shop or bank online while you’re on the go. When using smartphones, tablets and laptops, you can help protect your accounts by adding a password to lock your device screen. Also, install a “find your phone” tool to help locate your device if it’s misplaced. Many such tools give you the ability to disable your device remotely, in case it can’t be recovered.

5. REMEMBER, ‘SECURE’ STARTS WITH AN ‘S’

Before sending over account numbers or other sensitive information, check to see whether your browser address bar begins with “https” instead of “http”. The extra “s” literally stands for “secure,” because the page is encrypted. In addition to checking for the “s,” you can also look to see whether the webpage has a seal from such organizations as the Better Business Bureau, Truste or VeriSign, which means the site is more likely to be trustworthy.

6. SHOP WITH A CREDIT CARD, NOT A DEBIT CARD

With a credit card, you’ll generally have better consumer protection. If someone makes unauthorized charges, you’re only responsible for up to $50.

But with a debit card, your maximum liability is capped at $50 only if you report the card’s loss or theft within two business days after learning of it. After two days, you could be out $500 if you report a loss or theft within 60 days of getting your account statement — and beyond 60 days, you could lose all the money in your account, plus money taken from linked accounts.

No matter which card you have, set up automatic alerts to notify you when your card is used, and regularly check your statementsfor any charges you don’t recognize.

When you’re banking or shopping online, you don’t want to leave an open door for hackers. So it’s best to secure your accounts and your devices to protect your hard-earned money.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved 

Mobile Apps Make Depositing Checks a Snap


As routine financial tasks move online, you may have fallen out of the habit of banking at a branch office. If so, receiving a paper check can be a hassle, requiring a special trip just to deposit it.
Thankfully, mobile depositing is now widely offered by banks and credit unions, allowing you to put that refund from the cable company or birthday check from your uncle into your account without having to go to a branch in person.

How it works


Financial institutions that offer remote depositing generally do so through smartphone apps. Although the exact procedure varies, in most cases you start by endorsing the back of the check, the same way you would if you were depositing it with a teller or at an ATM. The app prompts you to snap photos of both the front and back of the check and send them through the phone to your account provider.
If you have multiple accounts at the same institution, you'll need to select the one you want to receive the money. Most of the time, you'll be asked to enter the amount you're putting in. The app usually has software designed to read important information from the photos, such as account and routing numbers and the amount of the check. But having you punch in the dollar figure reduces the chance of a software error that accidentally moves $20 into your account when the check was for $200, for example.


Is it risky?


Ideally, the same privacy and security safeguards are in place whether you're conducting a transaction online with your computer or logging in with a mobile app. Depositing a check by phone is no different. Financial institutions are refining and improving online security practices all the time, and their customer service departments can answer questions if you're concerned.
You can decrease your risk of having your personal financial data stolen by changing your passwords frequently, using an authentication code on any mobile device you use to access your financial accounts, and avoiding using unsecured Wi-Fi networks at cafes and other public places.

What's the downside?


If the camera on your phone isn't of good quality, it may be hard to take a clear enough picture. To improve your chances, lay the check on a flat surface like a table, and make sure it's well lit. Some apps require the image to include all four corners of the check, so make sure you're not cutting off part of it when you take the photo. To be safe, allow a small margin around it.
In many cases, there are restrictions placed on money deposited by mobile app. Some financial institutions limit the total dollar amount you can put in this way each month, or won't accept individual checks over a certain amount. Sometimes, these limits are lower if you're a new customer, and you're allowed greater freedom to deposit checks with the mobile app after you've had your account for a while.

Although paper checks are becoming less common, you may still receive them from time to time. Having the option to deposit them with your smartphone eliminates a lot of the associated inconvenience. This will only be more true as the technology improves. 
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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