8 Ways To Make Your Financial Data More Secure

Published by Angela Lim on

Data Security Illustration Drawing by Julie Lim_Me and My PF_Personal Finance Blog
Data Security Illustration Drawing by Julie Lim_Me and My PF_Personal Finance Blog

8 Ways To Make Your Financial Data More Secure

Unfortunately there’s a ton of people out there who are constantly trying to hack into other people’s accounts and/or steal their identities. This can result in bank accounts being wiped out, being liable for a loan you never opened, and ending up with credit card charges you never made. Fortunately there are some steps you can take to help protect yourself. 

1. Use strong, unique passwords for your accounts

Why: If you use the same, weak passwords for your accounts, there’s a much higher chance of your accounts becoming compromised. It’s easy for hackers to compromise all your accounts if they’re able to crack just one account. So it is a good idea to have both a strong and unique password for your accounts. 

How: 

1. Save your passwords in a physical notebook or use a password keeping app like LastPass, Bitwarden, and Dashlane. Password keeping apps also auto generate strong passwords.

2. Strong passwords have:

  • More than 10 characters
  • Capitalized and lowercase letters
  • Include at least one number (123) and one special character (!@£)
  • No ties to personal information (birthday)
  • No dictionary words

3. Tips for memorable strong passwords

  • Change some letters into numbers or special characters; Example: Cookie → C00k!3
  • Create an acronym with a phrase or quote; Example: Now I’m feelin’ so fly like a G 6 → NifsflaG6$
  • A series of random dictionary words. (It sounds contradictory to my previous tip, but if the dictionary words are random and long enough, computers will have a hard time cracking it.); Example: Battery Long Donkey Rose987

          2. Freeze your credit with all 3 credit bureaus

          Why: Whenever you open a new line of credit (e.g. credit card, car loan, mortgage loan, etc.), the lender needs to pull your credit to check your credit score and history. However, if your credit is frozen, you can prevent people from opening new lines of credit in your name, because the lenders will not have access to your credit. 

          How: 

          Tip: You should only temporarily lift your credit whenever you need to for purposes like opening a new credit card, purchasing a home, purchasing a car, etc. Otherwise, keep them on lockkk. 

          3. Check your credit report every 4 months

          Why: Your credit report not only shows your credit score, but also, details of your lines of credit such as what accounts are currently open, the payment history, and balances. You can also see delinquencies (past due payments) that are hurting your credit score, closed account information, job history, and previous addresses. If anything looks funky, like a credit card you never opened or a company you never worked for, you should dispute the information with the credit bureaus and reach out to the company to figure out what is going on. Try to shut down any accounts that were not opened by you ASAP. 

          How: Each of the 3 Credit Bureaus allow you to pull your credit report for free, once a year. So, if you you plan correctly, you can check your credit report 3 times a year for free by alternating between different credit bureaus every 4 months. You can request your free credit reports through annualcreditreport.com. Do not use any other “free” credit report sites! I know this site looks kind of lame… but it’s the only site that’s authorized by the FTC. 

          4. Lock your debit and/or credit cards

          Why: Credit and debit cards becoming compromised is happening more and more nowadays, but people can’t use your cards if those cards are locked!

          How: Most large banks such as Chase and Bank of America now give you the option to easily lock and unlock your cards online through their App with a swish of a finger! At the minimum, you should lock your debit cards as they have less protections than your credit cards and are directly linked to your bank accounts. 

          5. Check your financial accounts once a week

          Why: Even with your best efforts, your accounts (e.g. bank account, credit cards, retirement, investment, etc.) can be compromised. Therefore, it’s good to regularly check (at least a few times a week) your transaction history and balances to make sure nothing funky is going on. Sometimes, there can also be mistakes made from the bank itself or people could have punched in the wrong amount at stores/restaurants. If you do see something funky, report it ASAP. Fortunately with debit and credit card transactions, it’s fairly easy to get reimbursed for those transactions, but it becomes harder the longer you wait. 

          How: Log into your financial accounts at least 1-3 times a week and keep your eyes peeled for any unknown transactions. You can also set up alerts on your accounts that are triggered when $X amount is transferred out of your account, $X amount is spent at one time, if any international charge is made, etc.  

          6. Create a separate email address for your financial accounts

          Why: Nowadays, we rely on our email and phone to receive important alerts, statements, reset passwords, etc. If you use a personal email that you’ve shared with many people or gave out to companies, the chances of that email being compromised is higher. Therefore, consider making an email that is simply used for financial accounts and isn’t shared with anyone else. Of course, make sure that emails password is super strong too!

          7. Turn on 2 factor authentication when possible

          Why: It makes it that much more difficult for someone to hack into your account when you have 2 factor authentication (2FA), especially when you turn on the SMS 2FA. Make sure to never give out that 2FA code to anyone! Hackers sometimes call, pretending to be your bank to get access to your account – don’t fall for it! 

          8. Don't save your credit/debit card info on sites & email

          Why: If your email(s), computer, phone, etc. become compromised, your cards can be easily used by hackers. My friend actually had his gmail compromised recently and almost ended up paying over $500 for fishy Russian apps because the hacker figured out that he saved his credit card info in his gmail. Luckily, Google alerted him of suspicious activity which prompted him audit everything. 

          TL;DR

          1. Create strong, unique passwords. You can use this password generator.
          2. Freeze your credit with all 3 Credit Bureaus: Transunion, Experian, Equifax
          3. Check your credit report every 4 months
          4. Lock your debit card and/or credit cards
          5. Check your accounts at least once a week and set up notification alerts
          6. Create a separate email address just for your financial accounts  
          7. Turn on 2 factor authentication for everything
          8. Don’t save your credit card/debit card information on your emails and websites.

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