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5 Tips for Banking & Shopping Online Safely

1 – Set up and use Two-Factor Authentication for your bank account and every other online account that supports it. This is by far the single most effective way to protect your online accounts from hackers and thieves.

Once two-factor authentication has been activated on an account, a hacker or scammer would have to have physical access to your mobile phone before he/she would be able to log in to your account!

Two-factor authentication generally works something like this: You enter your username and password as you always have, and then the website will send a code to your mobile phone via a text message.

In order to finish logging into the account, you must enter the code you received in the text. If you can’t provide the code, you can’t get log into the account even if you know the password.

This post explains the benefits of two-factor authentication in more detail and provides links for setting it up on several of the most popular online services. If your bank supports two-factor authentication (and it probably does), you’ll be able to set it up from within your account’s “Settings” or “Preferences” section.

2 – Have a dedicated computer that you only use for online shopping and conducting business with your bank and other financial institutions. Then use your “everyday computer” for checking email, getting on Facebook and completing all of your other Internet tasks.

Your dedicated banking and shopping computer doesn’t have to be the latest and greatest model. As long as it’s malware-free and runs well it should be just fine for what you’ll be doing with it.

In need be, you can order a refurbished computer (#ad) from a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher through Amazon for as little as $100 – and it might even come with a monitor!

3 – Install a high-quality antivirus program on your dedicated shopping/banking computer and keep it updated with the latest virus definition database files. Just click the “Update” button every time you start up the PC.

I use and often recommend the free version of Avast Antivirus, but any quality antivirus solution should serve you well.

It’s also a good idea to occasionally run an on-demand anti-malware program to supplement the scans by your regular antivirus software. For example, I scan my PC with the free version of Malwarebytes once a week.

4 – Create a brand new email address at Gmail or and use that address exclusively for your online shopping and banking activities.

If at all possible, keep this dedicated “financial” email address free of malware and off of junk mailing lists. Don’t use it to sign up for “freebie” offers or even to email your friends. Only use it when your banking or shopping activities require the use of an email address.

5 – Never click the links in any email that appears to be from your bank or other online service. Instead, visit the website directly at its official URL and log in to your account, then perform whatever task the email said you need to complete from there.

Scammers use fraudulent emails claiming to be from banks, PayPal and other financial institutions every day to trick folks into giving them their personal information or direct access to their accounts. Don’t let it happen to you!

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