Is it safe to send bank details over email?

One of the simplest yet most thought-provoking questions I’ve been asked for some time: how secure is my email? With so many stories of Yahoo accounts and other email servers being hacked, one might conclude that email communication is not safe at all.

We’ve warned against blindly clicking links and opening unexpected attachments; we’ve explained how spammers use tricks such as sending a single, transparent pixel within an email that allows them to see whether your account is live (because you have to explicitly pull that image off the server even though it’s only one pixel); and we’ve warned against being taken in by offers that are too good to be true.

You may think your email is pretty safe if you’ve absorbed this advice and taken the appropriate action, but all these problems focus on the email arriving in your inbox, rather than the messages you send out.

Why You Would Want to Send Your Bank Details

In 2020 sending money isn’t difficult because there are so many safe and secure options. PayPal, CashApp, Venmo, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Square are all available for users who have an account. Unfortunately, all of these services charge a fee to send and receive money. Also, some people still do not trust nor do they want any of these services.

So, what if you just want to send money to a family member, or pay a small business for a service? You could send the banking details to a client to set up some form of direct deposit. But, is this wise?

Although it would be rather simple to send your banking information directly to someone’s email address, it really isn’t recommended. As stated previously, emails are subject to hacking while the payment services listed above are generally much safer because the recipient will never actually see your bank account information.

How Safe is Email?

First, as with any form of security, we must examine the leading factor to security breaches which is the human element. You can use an end-to-end encryption service to keep all of your information private. But, if you don’t have a strong password for that account a hacker can easily get in.

Aside from a weak password, users often expose more information about themselves than they intend to. This can be opening an email with a Trojan virus, or giving someone their email address and password without even realizing it. Let’s say you use the same email and password for your Netflix account, you’ve just handed over the golden key to your accounts.

Lastly, email services like Gmail offer several security features for their users. But even as one of the more popular email providers, the company has had issues protecting consumer privacy. Using 128 Bit encryption you’d think no one is reading your confidential communications. But, Google shares a lot of your information with other companies so this isn’t exactly safe either.

Basically, at the end of the day, you should not send any private information via email. From your social security number to your banking details, the risks outweigh any benefits.

How You Can Protect Your Email from Hackers

If you’re absolutely certain that you must send personal information via email, or you’d just like to secure your online communications, we’ve compiled a list of things you can do to make it safer. Just beware, nothing online is one-hundred percent fool-proof so you can still expose yourself to unauthorized intrusions.

Your Strong Password

You hear it all the time, use a password with a capital letter, numbers, and special symbols. Also, don’t use the same password for all of your accounts (as referenced with the Netflix analogy above).

Using the same password or “password1” is super simple to remember. You won’t ever have any trouble getting into your accounts. But, there are other things you can use that you won’t forget. For example, adding a special character can do wonders. Rather than “password1”, you could use “Pa$$word1.” It still isn’t perfect, but it is much more secure.

Use a phrase as your password, this is still easy to remember but it’s long enough that hackers will have a difficult time obtaining your information. So instead of “Fluffy2009” use “Ilovemydog$omuch2009.” It still isn’t perfect but you’re likely to remember it and it’s much more difficult to bypass.

Setup Two-Factor Authentication

Two-factor authentication sends a code to another device, phone number, or email address before you can access it. Most email hosts offer the feature and you can usually find it under “Privacy and Security.” Set this up so that if anyone tries to access your accounts you’ll get an alert immediately and they won’t have access without the code.

If the email service you’re using doesn’t offer 2FA, you may want to rethink the email service you’re using.

Protecting Your Passwords

The next question is how do you protect your passwords? You can use a third-party extension like LastPass to store all of your passwords in your web browser, or you could write them all down and lock them in a safe. What’s even better? Don’t write them down at all of course. Your passwords should be accessible to only you.

Don’t be more afraid of forgetting your password than you are of getting hacked. You may have to spend 15 minutes resetting a password, but you will spend hours, if not days, trying to recover from the financial loss of compromised banking details.

Assuming you still write checks, however, surely this account information is exactly that printed upon each one, so why worry about sending the same data by email? Well, while you place a certain amount of trust in those you give a check to, it will either be sent by post inside a sealed envelope or handed directly to its intended recipient.

Protect the Security of Your Device and Network

It isn’t just your email passwords you have to worry about. It’s your entire set up. Public wifi, downloads, and an insecure home wifi network can all put you at risk. You know that you shouldn’t open emails that aren’t from a reputable sender, but what about clicking links on the web or downloading third-party software and APKs?

Even if you’re using anti-malware software on your computer, trojan viruses can still access your hardware. With all of the safety protocols available to users, eliminate the biggest threat to your device, and be mindful of what you’re downloading.

The security-minded individual may feel safer using a VPN (Virtual Private Network) and there are plenty of free options available. It’s best to choose a paid VPN service with a good track history (as these can be compromised too).

The Final Word

Nothing on the internet is one-hundred percent secure. You can encrypt your emails, use a VPN, and use military-grade anti-malware, but your emails can still become compromised. Officially, it really isn’t a good idea to send your banking details through email. Although some paid money services do charge a small fee, they are more convenient and secure. There is also a backup with PayPal for example because the company will refund your money if something goes wrong.

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