As an entrepreneur and investor, I'm tech-obsessed. Technology is transforming every corner of our lives, from how we live, to how we earn, to how we spend.
When it comes to personal finance, these tech advancements have been wildly positive, for the most part. As we manage our financial lives digitally, there's one big reality we need to prepare for: data breaches.
Entrepreneurs are inherently risk-takers, but if you should be cautious in one area, it's digital security. The importance of protecting your business from online attacks is paramount (55 percent of small businesses were hit by a cyber attack in 2016, according to the Ponemon Institute). But for now, I want to dig in to ways you can protect yourself personally. When you can rest assured that your money is secure, it frees up time for you to focus on building your business.
Here are some of my favorite tips for keeping your money safe online.
1. Use a Password Manager
Everyone knows that using a complex, random combination of letters, symbols, and numbers and diversifying your passwords is the key to making it difficult for someone to hack you. Is your Target.com password the same as your bank password? Boom: That hacker could now have direct access to your money.
In today's busy world, especially when you're also building and running a business, it's hard to remember all of this password diversification, so I recommend using a password manager. I like Dashlane, Keeper, LastPass, and Blur -- they all offer free or subscription options that get high marks for security -- to help keep track of the different passwords I use.
And, of course, always opt in for multifactor authentication. It's a simple way to add an extra layer of protection.
2. Use Safe Wi-Fi Networks
Not all ways to access Wi-Fi are created equal. Whenever you're doing anything sensitive, like logging into a bank account, be thoughtful about how you're accessing the internet.
You can do this is two main ways: first, ensure that your own Wi-Fi network and router have strong password protection, and second, think twice before using a public Wi-Fi network for anything personal finance-related. Better options when you're on the road include using a VPN (virtual private network) or using your data plan.
That means no signing onto your bank account on your laptop while you're using the free Wi-Fi on Amtrak. Wait until you're home or on a secure network.
3. Take a Daily "Money Minute"
As part of good personal finance hygiene, I always recommend taking a daily "money minute." Just as it sounds, this is a moment to check in with your money every day. Log in to your personal financial management app of choice (like Mint or Personal Capital), scan your recent transactions, and make sure everything is accurate--both the vendors and the amounts. If anything is fishy, you'll spot it and alert your bank. This is a good practice not only for your personal accounts, but for your business transactions as well.
In the case of a security breach, taking a daily money minute becomes a must. Six in ten Americans have been the victim of fraudulent activity, so it's likely you'll find yourself in this boat. After a breach--in addition to closely monitoring your money--I recommend that you set up fraud alerts with your financial institutions. A fraud alert requires companies to verify your identity before issuing credit. You simply contact one of the three credit reporting bureaus (Experian, TransUnion or Equifax) and can customize fraud alerts to last for a specific period of time.
And here's a bonus tip: Be wary of unknown phone numbers. Phone scams are becoming more and more sophisticated--caller ID can be spoofed too, and many scam calls appear to be from local area codes. Never share personal info over the phone unless it's a call you've initiated with a verified number.
Ultimately, I want you to get the most out of technology to maximize every dollar you earn. Simply use these tips to protect yourself along the way.