If you are slightly nervous before using a money transfer service for the first time, I can hardly blame you. It takes a lot of saving and investing to build up a nest egg. And to hand it all over to a third party for a short period of time, no matter how trusted, is not an easy thing.
Luckily, there are a few basic principles you can follow to ensure tat you transfer money safely online. Some are related directly to money transfer while others are a matter of developing healthy internet habits. So whatever your age and experience level, I’m sure you’ll be able to take something useful away from this post.
Now, let’s get started with our tips for how to transfer money safely online:
1. Do your homework
Not all money transfer services are the same. Before you commit to using any service, you should do some research on the quality of their product. Some services are only equipped to handle small transfers, while others are more suitable for larger and more complex transactions. The fees and exchange rates offered by each service can vary considerably, so this should also be taken into account.
In addition to your own research, you should take a look at our reviews of the most popular money transfer services on the market. We have also published a guide on what to look for when selecting the right one for your needs. While this information is certainly useful, you should check that a service has the appropriate licences to operate in your country of residence.
2. Keep your software up to date
Whether you’re using a mobile phone or computer, keeping your operating software up to date is one of the simplest things you can do to ensure that you transfer money safely. A device with the most recent version of its software installed is much more difficult to exploit than one using a version that is even just a few months old.
The easiest way to accomplish this is to turn on automatic updates. If that can’t be done, Apple users should regularly check the app store for updates to the programs they have installed. Windows and Android users should look to do the same, in addition to installing a trusted antivirus package for protection from malware and other malicious threats.
3. Use a password manager
If you’re anything like me, you have dozens of user accounts online. Everything from webmail to Facebook requires that you have a username and password. Unless you are perfectly meticulous about creating strong and unique passwords, there is a very good chance that your passwords are either too weak to be secure or have been duplicated across accounts.
Not to fear, a password manager can help solve those worries for you and keep you more organised than ever imagined. Used correctly, a password manager can generate an uncrackable password for each account and store it for your in your own encrypted vault. Two of the best-known services are LastPass and 1Password. Both have entry-level products that are free to use, so you really have no excuse.
4. Turn on two-factor authentication
Two-factor authentication adds an additional layer of security when logging in and transacting with a money transfer service. It usually requires you to enter a separate security code delivered by text message or a dedicated authentication app. While not all money transfer services offer the ability to link a phone number for two-factor authentication, it should be used when possible.
The benefit to using two-factor authentication is that even if your password is compromised, no one can get into your account without the second-factor data. It is essentially the last line of defence when protecting your accounts from unauthorised access. If you’re interested in reading more, Wired has published an in-depth article on the topic.
5. Beware of hoax emails
There are criminals out there who deliberately craft emails to look like they’ve come from the money transfer services you already trust. Anti-spam protection can only do so much to determine the validity of an email landing in your inbox. At the end of the day, it is your responsibility to ascertain whether an email is genuine and how you should respond, if at all.
If you can, try to ignore unsolicited emails. Also be wary of attachments, links, and forms in emails that come from people you don’t know, or which seem “phishy”. Misspellings and unusual grammar can often be a giveaway. But if in doubt, it is probably safer to assume that an email is untrustworthy and to contact your favourite service directly.
Here are some hard and fast rules that won’t let you down:
- Don’t open attachments from people you don’t know
- If you don’t know who sent the email, consider deleting it
- Stop and think before clicking on any links
- Scan email attachments with security software before opening them
- Legitimate services will not ask you to confirm personal details or passwords via email, so do not reply to emails requesting this sort of information
- Beware of emails that don’t address you by name
6. Avoid using unsecured public Wi-Fi
At some time or another, we’ve all joined an unsecured public Wi-Fi network. You know, the ones that you find at hotels, airports and even the local cafe? Now that we have acknowledged that fact, let’s make a promise to never do it again. Unsavoury characters will often monitor the traffic of unsecured connections and attempt to intercept any personal information that is communicated over the network.
It may tough to resist, but you should try not to use an unsecured network unless absolutely necessary. And if you have to, always ask for its exact name to avoid connecting with an evil twin. Whichever the case, unless you are certain about a network’s security, it’s not worth transmitting sensitive information. If you’d like to know more, Wired has come through with the goods again, publishing tips for safe public WiFi use.
7. Be careful with social media
The use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have become increasingly popular over the last few years. They are not only great tools for keeping in touch with friends and family but also to communicate with your favourite money transfer service. But for all this convenience, you should be very careful with the information you disclose in these public forums.
Many people choose to interact with customer service representatives using their social media account. Unfortunately, this means that in many cases a conversation can be viewed by just about anyone. This is not a very secure method of communication and can expose too much of your personal information. Instead, you should aim to deal with a service directly via phone or email.
8. Don’t provide sensitive data to insecure websites
Over the past couple of years, many services have taken an extra step to ensure the security of their website’s data. To check whether you’re connected to a secure website is very simple. All you need to do is take a look at your web browser’s address bar and notice if the address starts with HTTPS. If everything is fine, you should also find a green padlock icon next to the address.
The important thing to remember here is to never enter any sensitive information on a website that hasn’t enabled HTTPS security. This includes things like your personal contact information, credit card or bank details. By now, most money transfer services should have made the move to a secure website, but it’s always a good idea to check. If they haven’t, it might be time to find a new service.
9. Protect your personal documents
Our last tip for online security relates to documents, stored online as well as offline. Your personal documents, such as drivers licences, passports and financial statements should be secured at home, at work, and when you travel. Also, sensitive files on mobile phones and computers should be protected with passwords and where possible, with the encryption tools built into your operating system.
You should be very careful about what you throw in the trash. Financial statements and other important documents should be shredded before being discarded, to keep prying eyes away. This also goes when recycling or re-purposing your electronic devices. The data contained on computers and hard drives should be thoroughly erased, so there is no trace of your personal information left behind.
I hope that you’ve found some use for our tips on how to transfer money safely. While this post does not address absolutely everything that should be considered, it does offer a good start. By simply attending the points outlined above, you will already be much more secure than the average internet user. With so much at stake, I think it’s worth the effort.