Like most parents with children under the age of 10, I read a lot of Dr. Seuss at bedtime and also just had the pleasure of watching The Lorax with my two daughters. There’s a line from the movie that says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.” For nearly a decade now, I have been trying to spread the message about how insecure the online banking environment is and how little people care about it. In that same time, there has been media coverage aplenty and countless vendors selling countless solutions to any number of banks and credit unions and yet, by and large, our internet banking experience today is the same as it was a decade ago: minimal functionality and minimal security. As I sat watching The Lorax, which followed on the heels of the Occupy Wall Street movement, it dawned on me: “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”
Simply put, the industry needs your help. We need you to care, a whole awful lot. I’m providing a brief instruction manual on how we can accomplish this. Below is not designed to be an all-encompassing list of what we need to do to install change in how we’re protected, but it is a start – a spark to ignite the fire.
1. Realize Who Bears the Cost of Fraud
One of the common responses I get from consumers when pressing them on the “fraud” topic is that “the bank loses the money, I don’t.” These may be the same people that think they can go to a casino and win big. There’s a reason the bank’s office and the casino are bigger than your house: you WILL lose in the end. In Vegas, even if you win, you still buy a $35 steak and a $15 martini. At the bank, even if they give you back your fraud losses, you still pay account fees, earn no interest on your account funds (or very little), and you still have invested your time to review your account. You are and will continue to lose money to fraud EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT A VICTIM. That’s right, EVERYONE pays for fraud losses.
2. Demand to be Protected
When I was a kid, my buddies and I had a club. We had ultimate security to get in; we had to keep the riff-raff out (never mind that literally every kid in the neighborhood was in the club). To get in the club, you had to know the secret password. Guess what? All of the money you have in the bank is protected in the same way I protected my collection of Legos: a secret password. If your entire financial life is protected in the same way your kid protects his tree house, I’d say it’s time to demand an upgrade.
3. Do your homework
There are banks that provide very solid security to their customers. Reward them for their forethought. Google “online banking security” and see which banks (not security vendors in the sponsor area) pop up. Reward them for taking the initiative for protecting their customers and OPT IN to their security. Vote with your wallet on this.
4. If Moving Banks is too Much, Push Your Bank to Protect You
It is not hard for any bank to deliver very solid security to their customers. If they argue that it is, give them my number; I’ll make them a deal to protect you. Banks do respond to their customers – so voice your opinion and ask for services and products that will help keep your information safe.
5. When Evaluating Anything Online, Look for Security
My kids use Facebook and all kinds of social media and I monitor their posts to make sure that they’re not revealing anything personal about themselves. Why? Not just because I’m a protective dad, but also because I know that ALL personal information has value. One of the easiest ways to impersonate you online is to monitor your Facebook page and see who your friends are, where you’re going, pictures, etc. We need to start considering all of our personal information as valuable to us and especially to a hacker.
6. Question the Status Quo
Now that the collective consciousness is raised, we have an obligation to challenge the status quo. Remember, it is the only way anything gets better. No security for online banking? Ask why not! No security for mobile banking? Ask why not! If your bank does not give you a satisfactory answer as to why they do or don’t do certain things, push for escalation. As a consumer, you have more power than you know, so don’t be afraid to use it.
7. Push Elected Officials
Federal agencies have gone as far as they are likely to go in requiring banks to implement security. Their view is also that consumers must get involved, and frankly, the banks are waiting for people to care. Well, we need to show we care. Write your legislation demanding better regulation for consumers and everyone else when banking online. Request better protection of confidential information and stronger penalties for those that don’t. Let’s make this a national conversation, not just a debate in the small security circles.
There you have it – my few tips to beefing up your online banking security. Take a stand, now, today, and demand better security. The banks are waiting for us all to care, the government is too. For this intent and purpose, think of me as your personal Lorax (sans mustache), and “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.”