Stay Vigilant While Shopping Online This Holiday Season

Holiday shopping sure isn’t what it used to be. People are turning away from the craziness of the mall, and are instead using their smart phones, laptops and tablets to buy their gifts.holiday-online-shopping-safety

If you’re ditching the usual shopping experience for the less-stressful digital one, you’ll be in good company. Millions of people are expected to head online this year for their gift-giving needs.

But while online shopping provides greater freedom and convenience, it can come with some risks. Cyber criminals are prowling the internet – especially during the holiday season – looking to steal personal and financial information from unsuspecting shoppers. But the good news is that you can keep yourself and your wallet safe by staying on high alert. So, while working your way down your gift list this year, here are some online security tips to consider:

Stay away from sketchy sites. Whenever possible, do your shopping on popular, well-known websites. If you are tempted to buy from an unfamiliar site, be sure to do your research first. Google the name of the company to see if there are any scam alerts, or bad reviews out there. You would never give your credit card information to some creepy stranger on the street, would you? That’s really no different than giving it to some website you know nothing about.

Be wary of any deals that sound too good to be true. Say you’re surfing around and you find a price for an item that’s unbelievable. Chances are that it’s bogus. That’s one of the ways crooks lure in unsuspecting buyers to their sites. Once there, they have ways to con you out of sensitive banking and credit card information.

Be on the lookout for “imposter” sites. Even if you’re looking to buy from a website with a great reputation, or one that you’ve purchased from multiple times, you still need to have your guard up. Online scammers have been known to create fake, bogus sites that mirror the ones you know and trust. So, be sure to double-check the address bar of your favorite online store before entering your sensitive information. If you’re looking to buy on BestBuy.com, but you notice that the URL reads “bestbuy.shoppingstore.net”, then you’re not really on BestBuy.com, you’re on a site called “ShoppingStore.net” that is posing as BestBuy.

Only shop on secure sites. Before typing in your credit card or personal information online, it’s extremely important to verify that your connection to the website is secure. If the connection is not secure, it means the data you enter will not be encrypted, and can be easily accessed by cyber crooks. You can tell whether you are on a secure, encrypted connection by checking the URL in your browser’s address bar. If the URL begins with “https”, and there is an icon of a lock to the left of the URL, it means the connection is secure.

Don’t shop using free Wi-Fi.  Free, public Wi-Fi connections typically don’t have the best safeguards in place to protect you, such as firewalls and encryption technology. The same goes for public computers – they’re usually just as unsafe. If you’re out and about using public Wi-Fi or a shared device, wait until you get home to do your online shopping.

Know your apps. Only use trustworthy apps when mobile shopping. More and more people are turning to their smartphones to shop, and if you’re one of them, use apps provided directly by a retailer. Just as there are many bogus websites out there, there are just as many phony apps waiting to take advantage of you.

Keep up with updates. Make sure your devices have the latest versions of security software installed. And be sure to use the most recent version of your operating system and web browser. This will help ensure that you are properly defended against any newly identified viruses or malware.

Monitor your accounts. You should check your banking and credit card accounts on a regular basis, at least once a week if possible. If you come across any suspicious activity or unauthorized purchases, report them immediately to your bank or credit card issuer.

Most importantly, don’t let your guard down while shopping online. Being on the lookout for anything suspicious will go a long way to keeping your sensitive information safe. Stay vigilant, and don’t let your holiday be ruined by cyber crooks!

 

Earn Interest with a Checking Account

It pays to have a checking account with an online bank – literally.

While many traditional checking accounts at brick-and-mortar banks do not earn any interest, online banks are a different story. Because online-only banks don’t have physical branches, they have less overhead costs than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. This allows them to offer high-yield, interest-bearing checking accounts.
Man writing a check

Many interest checking accounts require you to maintain a minimum balance in order to earn interest, and some accounts have certain requirements that must be met – such as a minimum number of debit card transactions – in order for customers to qualify for the stated interest rate. It’s important to note that some banks also cap the balance you can earn interest on. At Bank5 Connect, we try to keep it simple by offering a high-interest checking account with a minimum balance of just $100 to earn interest. There are no balance caps, and no additional hoops to jump through. There are also no monthly maintenance fees associated with the account. Learn more about our High-Interest Checking account here: http://www.bank5connect.com/home/high-interest-checking.

It’s important to keep in mind that oftentimes, interest-bearing checking accounts require you to conduct all of your banking activities online. This will probably be expected if you’re opening an interest checking account at an online bank that doesn’t have any physical branches, but it may come as a surprise if you’re opening an interest checking account at a local bank down the street. Some brick-and-mortar banks do in fact offer interest checking accounts, but it’s not uncommon for them to charge those customers a fee for in-branch transactions. They typically do this as a trade-off to help the bank offset the interest the customer is earning.

So, before opening an interest-bearing checking account, be sure to read all of the fine print to understand how, where, and when you will have access to your money. With a Bank5 Connect High Interest Checking account, our customers have free access to thousands of ATMs nationwide through the SUM NetworkAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!. And, if they use an ATM outside of that network we still won’t charge them, and we will reimburse them for other banks’ surcharges up to $15 per statement cycle.

There are many high-yield, interest checking accounts out there to choose from, so be sure to review all of your options to find the account that’s right for you. Customer reviewsAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!, and websites like GoBankingRatesAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!, NerdwalletAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! and The Simple DollarAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! can help you compare what’s out there.

12 Ways to Protect Your Mobile Device

Your mobile device provides convenient access to your email, bank and social media accounts. Unfortunately, it can potentially provide the same convenient access for criminals. Follow these tips to keep your information – and your money – safe.AdobeStock_94918198

  1. Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.
  2. Log out completely when you finish a mobile banking session.
  3. Protect your phone from viruses and malicious software, or malware, just like you do for your computer by installing mobile security software.
  4. Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malicious software, worms, and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions.”
  5. Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps.
  6. Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or a Social Security number on your mobile device.
  7. Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.
  8. Be aware of shoulder surfers. The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings especially when you’re punching in sensitive information.
  9. Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.
  10. Beware of mobile phishing. Avoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. And be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.
  11. Watch out for public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren’t very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network.
  12. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.

 

Protecting Yourself Online

Though the internet has many advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. Here are some tips to keep you safe online:AdobeStock_144724542

  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  • Set strong passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.
  • Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov – and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.
  • Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
  • Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it.
  • Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  • Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

Be Wary of Fake Apps in the Cybersphere

“User Beware” is a good catchphrase to keep in mind when it comes to apps for your smart phone or electronic tablet. That’s because there are bogus apps out there waiting to snare unsuspecting prey.tips-to-avoid-fake-scamming-apps

These apps will often appear as software programs that mimic legitimate ones, such as apps for popular retailers. But if you download them, you could be setting yourself up for theft of personal or financial information. Or you could end up paying for apps that just don’t work. Worse yet, you might end up downloading malicious software that could keep you locked out of your device until you pay a ransom.

Unscrupulous software developers have found ways to infiltrate app stores with their phony apps, often snaring people with enticing ads. But many of these ads or app descriptions will have misspellings or poorly designed knock-off logos of retailers – signs that they’re not legitimate. That’s because they likely were designed in a rush, or the designers were from overseas (which is typically the case) and English isn’t their first language.

That’s not to say that there aren’t phony apps that closely mirror those they’re imitating. If you’re not sure that such apps are legitimate, go to the retailer’s websites in question and see if they have an app available. If they do, they will direct you to the app store to download it. You can also do a search using the retailer’s name and “fake app” in the search box to see if the company has reported that its brand has been hijacked.

Some other ways to uncover bogus apps include:

Checking to see who published the app and when it was published. Phony developers will use similar names as those they’re spoofing for their apps. And scam apps often have recent publish dates, while legitimate ones will have an “updated on” date.

Fake apps have few, if any, reviews. And if they do have some, they’ll likely be generic and short.

Look at how often the app has been downloaded. Legitimate apps will have hundreds, if not thousands, of downloads under their belts. Fake ones won’t rival those numbers.

If an app offers unbelievable shopping discounts, be wary of it. That’s because it’s probably just another ploy to get you to download it.

Look for reviews of an app before downloading it. You should be able to find reviews in the app stores and on the internet. If the app has no reviews, it was likely created recently, and could be a fake. Real apps for big retailers often have thousands of reviews.

Does your device use the Android operating system? If so, go to your settings and then to security and check that you’re set up to prohibit third-party app downloads from untrusted sites.

Generally speaking, it’s probably best to keep your guard up before downloading any app.

8 Tips to Protect Your Identity

Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States. In 2016, there were 15.4 million victims of identity fraud in the U.S., according to Javelin Strategy and Research. We recommend following these tips to keep your information – and your money – safe.tips-to-protect-you-from-identity-fraud

  1. Don’t share your secrets.

Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.

  1. Shred sensitive papers.

Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.

  1. Keep an eye out for missing mail.

Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen. Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up.

  1. Use online banking to protect yourself.

Monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. Sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $500.

  1. Monitor your credit report.

Order a free copy of your credit report every four months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!.

  1. Protect your computer.

Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.

  1. Protect your mobile device.

Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Use caution when downloading apps, as they may contain malware and avoid opening links and attachments – especially for senders you don’t know.

  1. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Learning how to identify online fraud and understanding how fraudulent activity happens helps with prevention. Here are some past blog posts with information on identity theft and prevention.october-is-national-cybersecurity-awareness-month

 
How to Avoid a ‘Card Cracking’ Scam
What You Need to Know about Ransomware
3 Ways to Verify a Legitimate E-mail

 
Check back every Tuesday for the month of October for blog posts with tips and information on protecting yourself from cybersecurity.