It’s not that long ago that facial-recognition and iris-scanning software was the stuff of science fiction. Now, there’s a good chance you’ve got that science fiction on your smartphone (or, if your phone is a few years old, you might have a fingerprint scanner instead).
Likewise, if your bank’s mobile app utilises the latest technology, then chances are you too can add an extra layer of security on your account. This is a great innovation because while passwords may be compromised, nobody’s going to find it easy to copy your iris or fingerprints! So, that’s one new way of keeping your financial information secure. But you may not be aware of the other innovations going on behind the scenes that are helping to make online banking as safe as … well, a bank.
Kate Pepper, the head of digital strategy at Westpac, says security is at the core of the bank’s digital offering, which is why it was one of the first financial institutions in the world to adopt biometric technology as a security measure.
“We have a multi-layered, risk-based approach to fraud detection and prevention,” she says. “That allows us to offer our customers really strong peace of mind, and biometric security has been a really big advancement in online banking protection; using a fingerprint or facial recognition that’s unique to you is amazing.”
The bank is also monitoring your transactions and activity (in a good way!) to help make banking through digital platforms as safe as the traditional way of doing things.
Pepper explains that Westpac uses market-leading technology to secure its banking platforms. Westpac Protect Adaptive Authentication is a real-time, risk-based fraud detection platform learning about your digital identity and regular activities. “This means we can alert you to any unusual activity that happens on your account,” Pepper says. “And when you couple that with 24/7 fraud detection and monitoring, we can give you peace of mind that your money is safe.”
All banks work to protect their customers money aganist online fraud, which is why it’s important to be upfront and let them know when something out of the ordinary is about to occur. This could be as easy as notifying your bank you’re travelling overseas, or about to complete a large transaction. Doing so will save you the hassle of your account being frozen because your bank’s fraud detection platform has been a little too effective!
There’s another type of protection you can add to your online account, too.
As well as logging in to your bank account using a PIN or biometric data such as your fingerprint, Pepper advises Westpac customers to register for Westpac Protect™ SMS Code, which adds an additional layer of security by asking you to confirm certain transactions or banking activities, such as payments, by entering a unique code that is sent to you by text message.
Most banks offer or even require this second layer of authentication on some transactions so if your own bank doesn’t or you haven’t yet activated it, it’s worth inquiring about doing so.
Meanwhile, it’s important not to let these advances in online security lull you into forgetting about the part you play in security.
“Regularly change your online passwords,” Pepper says. “We recommend setting yourself a reminder to change them every couple of months.”
She also suggests not using the same password across multiple applications, including social media, and updating your online banking app every time you’re prompted to do so, to ensure all of the latest security features are activated.
While some of this technology may sound a bit Big Brother-ish, you can be assured that bank staff don’t, and shouldn’t, know your password or PIN. This information is stored securely and further protected with encryption software by your bank, so even bank staff can’t see your password, nor will they ever need it.
Speaking of bank staff, it’s important to remember that they will never email or call you asking for confidential banking information. And they will definitely not send you a link in an email requesting that you sign in to unlock or verify transactions – chances are this is a scam email, no matter how legitimate the email looks.
“Never, ever provide any personal details during an unsolicited phone call,” Pepper cautions. “If you are suspicious of a call, just hang up. And let us know – call us back on one of the phone numbers listed on the back of your card or our website.”
Doing your bit for security
While it’s not possible to completely protect yourself against online threats, keeping your personal information secure and employing all of the security measures on offer goes a long way towards staying ahead of the scammers.
It’s also a good idea to stay up to date with what scammers are up to. This is where the government’s Scamwatch service can help you recognise, avoid and report scams, including scams related to online banking.
You can also sign up for email alerts on the latest scams, and check your bank’s own website, as they often have helpful, up-to-date information on scams.
If you protect your passwords, PINs, security codes and act on security advice from your bank, Pepper says online banking is just as safe as banking through a branch, but simpler and more convenient.
Best of all, it even comes with a guarantee that provided you do your bit, your bank will refund any money taken fraudulently from your account.
Things to know: The information in this publication is general information and factual only. It does not constitute any recommendation or financial product advice. It is an overview only and it should not be considered a comprehensive statement on any matter or relied upon as such. You should consider obtaining your own independent professional advice. © Westpac Banking Corporation ABN 33 007 457 141 AFSL and Australian credit licence 233714.
Important information: The information provided on this website is of a general nature and for information purposes only. It does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It is not financial product advice and must not be relied upon as such. Before making any financial decision you should determine whether the information is appropriate in terms of your particular circumstances and seek advice from an independent licensed financial services professional.