6 ways to protect your online finances… In the physical world

how to protect your online finances

From VPNs to antivirus software, there is no shortage of precautions to take when protecting your personal banking online. But your financial information can be just as vulnerable to theft in the physical world.

Here are six precautions you can take to safeguard your data from high-tech pickpocketing.

1. Check for card skimmers

With the universal standardization of EVM chips in credit and debit cards, the threat of card skimming (using a device to collect information from the card’s magnetic strip) has drastically decreased—but it’s not been eradicated entirely.

Before using your card at an ATM, it’s still best to check for suspicious devices that look out of place with adjacent machines. One indicator of machine tampering is unusually stiff number keys. CCTV cameras pointed toward the keypad rather than the user are also red flags. If you notice these irregularities, cancel your transaction and leave the terminal.

If everything checks out, we still recommend you cover the keypad with your idle hand when punching in the PIN code. So if you’re typing in the PIN code with your right hand, use the left to block out the idle keys. That’ll make it very hard for hidden cameras to identify the numbers.

2. Use NFC or phone payment options

Smartphone apps like Apple Pay and Android Pay let you add your cards to a digital wallet to pay for purchases via NFC. Simply tap your phone on a scanner to pay.

This method of payment lets you avoid using skimmable cards. Each transaction also uses a digitally generated token that is only relevant to that payment, making stolen information from these transactions useless.

3. Don’t save your passwords on paper

A common form of password theft is, simply, being the victim of physical theft. With so many websites requiring different and frequently updated passwords, it can be difficult to keep track of them all. But if you physically record your passwords, you are leaving your security at risk of theft.

Digital password managers (such as our partner LastPass) provide an extra layer of protection and convenience to a traditional pen and paper note. Many web browsers now have these capabilities built in, and can be remotely wiped in the event of theft or loss of your devices, giving you peace of mind while keeping your passwords all in one place.

4. Use privacy screen protectors

Taking your work to public places such as coffee shops and parks has become the new normal. But shoulder surfing, or carefully observing information typed into a computer in public, is a low-tech and common tactic by scammers to gain access to your financial information.

While it’s impossible to police where people look in a public space, you can take steps to obscure your screen from unwanted observers. The most convenient method is a privacy protector. This film you lay over your screen uses a filter that only permits someone looking at it straight on to be able to see what’s on the screen. From the side, the screen appears darkened.

5. Get an RFID-safe wallet

RFID scanners are increasingly used by governments to track ID cards and other items such as credit cards, metro passes, passports, and even some currency.

Perhaps worse still, the technology can be duplicated or illegally sold, ending up in the hands of scammers seeking to compromise and take advantage of your personal data.

With the emergence of this threat, many companies are releasing RFID-safe wallets and passport holders that prevent anyone from scanning your personal belongings. This precaution is particularly important for frequent travelers, as the use and prevalence of RFID scanning devices can vary from country to country.

6. Check your credit card statements carefully

With fewer people opting for cash, it’s normal to use your credit card to pay for almost everything both online and offline. What this means is that we often rack up a large number of transactions and neglect to tabulate or validate them at the end of the month.

Get in the habit of poring over your monthly credit card statement in order to ensure that there aren’t any unauthorized purchases. That helps you identify an issue early and flag it to your bank or payment provider. What’s more, if you receive a paper statement, be sure to rip it up before tossing it into the trash. Your card number is printed on it and could be left exposed.

Online protection starts in the real world

These are just a few steps to better secure your digital footprint in the physical world. By combining these everyday practices with proper security software, you can browse the world wide web and the world under your feet with peace of mind.

ExpressVPN is dedicated to your online security and privacy. Posts from this account will focus on company news or significant privacy and security stories.