More and more people are falling victim each year to having their online accounts hacked, and the money withdrawn or transferred out. It is a very scary thought that someone could access your 401(k) or bank account, and simply transfer the money – but it happens, and it happens frequently. While brokerages and industry safe guards such as the SIPC usually help customers recover their money or reimburse them for their losses, the process can be long, hard, and time consuming.
That is why you should take these simple precautions to protect your accounts.
Having a strong password is the first thing you can do to prevent hackers from getting into your account. It is estimated that about 85% of passwords can currently be broken by brute force attacks (i.e. simply a computer guessing your password by throwing random passwords in). This is possible because too many people still have passwords such as “password”, “123456789”, and others.
To have a strong password, ensure that you are using ALL of the following: upper case letter, lower case letter, number, and symbol. This will make it difficult, if not impossible for a hacker to guess. Also, the longer, the better. If you choose a password over 14 characters long, it is currently almost impossible to crack using current technology. That will most likely change in the next few years, but it is a good safe place to be right now.
To strengthen your password, consider using the Random.Org Password Generator. It is a simple tool that will generate you a strong password.
You might be asking yourself how you could remember a 14 character long password. If that is the case, you should consider framing your password as a phrase instead of as a word. For example, your password could be “The_CoLLege#Investor1” . That combines all the features to make it a strong password, and it is pretty easy to remember. You can do something similar for just about every word or phrase.
You can also consider replacing letters in your word with numbers. “5” can easily substitute for “s”, “3” for “E”, and so forth. By doing so, you make it that much harder.
Use a Password Keeper Site
One of the biggest problems people encounter is the sheer number of passwords they have to remember – this bank, that brokerage, email, probably 3 different ones at work. The mass amount of information can be daunting. That is where password keeper sites become very handy.
There are a lot of password reminder sites, and I haven’t tried them out, but I would recommend you look around at costs and fees associated with each.
Don’t Give Out Your Information
Finally, the biggest thing you can do to protect yourself is not fall for phishing scams, where you are tricked into giving out your information. I highlighted some of the top investing scams last week, but phishing is one of the biggest.
One way to avoid this is to make sure that you only contact your financial firms through known, trusted channels. For example, if someone calls from you bank asking for information, respectfully decline and say you will call them. Then call them back using their known phone number. If it is legitimate, they will have your information saved in the computer. If not, you will know right away.
Readers, do you have any other security tips for keeping your money safe online? Any recommendations on a password reminder site?
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.