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

3 min read

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An illustration of a phone with a padlock on the screen. In the padlock is a dollar sign!

From VPNs to anti-virus 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.

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.

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.