With so many financial transactions conducted online these days — shopping for clothes, ordering from restaurants, investing in stocks — the risk of someone gaining access to and stealing money from our bank accounts is ever present. If you are newly retired or planning to retire soon, protecting your savings from such cyberthreats should be a top priority.
Take these steps to keep your finances — and your retirement nest egg — digitally secure.
1. Monitor Your Online Retirement Account
Keeping a close eye on your online accounts helps you protect your identity and financial security. Thieves are less likely to gain fraudulent access to your account if you keep tabs on it. And if you think you can avoid the risk by not setting up an online account, think again. The U.S. Department of Labor's Employee Benefits Security Administration says that not registering for an online account might enable a cybercriminal to assume your online identity.
2. Enable Multifactor Authentication
When you set up the security settings for your retirement fund or any other financial account, enable two-factor or multifactor authentication. Multifactor authentication improves your financial security by setting up extra hurdles between your account and anyone trying to access it. You'll have to enter your user name and password to access your 401(k) account, for example, but you'll also have to verify your identity by entering a code sent via text or email or answering a security question.
3. Use a Different Password for Each Account
Reusing passwords for online financial accounts is like giving a burglar a master key to every house in the neighborhood. If a hacker figures out your password and uses it to get into an account you have at an online store, they could be just a few clicks away from your bank account and your retirement nest egg. Digitally secure your personal and financial information by creating a unique password for every account.
4. Strengthen Your Passwords
Financial institutions usually offer helpful hints for creating your account password and might show you how strong your password is when you create it. The typical suggestions include using a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters, using 12 or more characters, and not using letters and numbers in sequence.
The National Cybersecurity Alliance suggests using a phrase or sentence as your password. Make it something that's easy to remember and that means something to you, but don't make it so obvious that someone who doesn't know you could easily guess it.
5. Think Before You Click a Link in an Email or Text
A message that appears to be from a financial institution you trust could be fake. It's a common trick in a type of cyberfraud known as phishing — an attempt to trick the recipients of email and text messages to share sensitive data in response to a warning or request to verify information about their account. To be on the safe side, don't open any links in an email or text. Go to the institution's official website and log in there to access the message, or look up their phone number and contact a representative directly.
Close account monitoring, smart password and login practices, and avoiding direct clicks on email and text links put up roadblocks on the path of would-be cyberthieves. Whether you're retired or simply planning for your retirement, protect your future and your finances by following this checklist to make your data more digitally secure.