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4 Ways You're Making Yourself Vulnerable to Identity Theft

Identity theft is a very real threat in the banking world and it seems like every time you turn around another security breach is in the news. While there’s not much that the average person can do to prevent this kind of cyber crime from happening, there are plenty of ways to keep your information safe. If you’re making these mistakes, you could be leaving your account vulnerable to hackers.

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1. Using the Same Password for Everything

If identity thieves can crack your online or mobile banking password, they can wreak some serious havoc on your finances. Using the same password to log into all of your online accounts (including your Neflix, PayPal and credit card accounts) is one way that you may be inadvertently giving them an advantage.

Sticking with the same password may simplify things, but you’re putting yourself at risk if one of your accounts gets compromised. Creating unique passwords and changing them every three to six months can be an effective way to deter hackers.

2. Allowing Third Parties to Access Your Banking Info

4 Ways You're Making Yourself Vulnerable to Identity Theft

Financial apps can make keeping up with your banking activity a breeze, especially if you’ve got more than one checking account. But there is a downside: Some of these apps require you to share your banking login details in order to track your transactions. Although they might encrypt your data, that’s still not a foolproof protection against hackers.

The other issue with allowing third-party access to your account is that it may violate the terms of your banking agreement. It’s a problem if someone can use your account information to make fraudulent purchases. Your bank may hold you responsible for any money a hacker spends if you were the one who opened the door for him to do so.

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3. Using Public Wi-Fi

These days there’s Wi-Fi almost everywhere you go. But using it to schedule online bill payments or check your account balances is a big no-no. While it may be convenient to do your mobile banking at a public hotspot, the potential dangers far outweigh the benefits.

There’s a good chance that the information you’re sending through a free Wi-Fi service isn’t going to be encrypted. Basically, it’s just floating around in cyberspace and if any hackers come along, they can just snatch it right out of thin air. Before you log in on a public network, it’s a good idea to ask yourself whether it’s really worth the risk.

4. Choosing Softball Security Questions

4 Ways You're Making Yourself Vulnerable to Identity Theft

Some banks require you to answer one or more security questions before you can log in. This additional step adds an extra layer of protection, so it’s important to make sure you’re picking questions that a thief wouldn’t be able to guess the answer to. For example, using your birth date or your wedding anniversary may be easy to remember, but that’s the kind of information a hacker may be able to dig up without using too much effort.

If your bank gives you a list of questions to choose from, it’s best to go with the ones that allow you to give the most unique responses possible. Instead of answering what your mother’s maiden name is, you could include the name of your first grade teacher. The more obscure the answer is, the harder it’s going to be for an identity thief to break into your account.

Related Article: Five Simple Ways To Protect Against Identity Theft Online

Final Word

Keeping hackers at bay is no easy task, but you owe it to yourself (and your bank account) to take any and every step you can to protect your information. If you’re committing any of these seemingly harmless errors, it might be time to rethink your banking habits.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/idealistock, ©iStock.com/Prykhodov, ©iStock.com/weerapatkiatdumrong

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Rebecca Lake Rebecca has been writing about the nuts and bolts of personal finance since 2009. Her work has appeared on a number of popular finance sites, including the Quickbooks/Intuit small business blog and Money Crashers. As a homeschooling mom of two, she's always looking for ways to make the most of every dollar.

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