How to keep your bank account secure

Fact Checked
This guide explains how to keep your bank account, debit card and personal details safe when you use them online or in person.
Share this guide
woman-on-phone-in-the-street

With fraud on the rise, it’s more important than ever to know how to keep your bank account and personal details secure.

Use internet and mobile banking safely

Online banking is a convenient way to manage your money on the go. The downside is it could leave your account vulnerable to fraud if someone else discovers your login details. If that were to happen, they could take money from your account and access your personal information.

Having said that, one of the benefits of using online banking is that it can also help you avoid fraud because it lets you check your statements regularly. This can help you spot any suspicious transactions straight away.

If this happens, contact your bank immediately. It can get transactions that you didn’t make refunded and prevent it from happening again.

You can take several steps to help keep your bank account secure. These include:

  • Choosing different passwords for all your online accounts

  • Updating your passwords regularly and never sharing them with anyone else

  • Using a password manager, which creates secure passwords for you

  • Ensuring your antivirus software is up to date. Some banks give you this for free

  • Connecting to a secure Wi-Fi connection when you use online banking

  • Logging out of your online banking or mobile app when you have finished

How to create a secure password

Remembering passwords for online banking or any other website can be a pain. But it’s important that when you create a password, you avoid obvious personal information like your name or your home town as this can be easy to guess. You should also avoid using the same password for multiple sites. 

Instead, make your password secure by using a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, symbols and numbers. It can be something that’s easy to remember but replace some of the letters with numbers or symbols instead. For example, ‘Ilovecake’ could become ‘EyeL0v3caK3!’. 

Using mobile banking carefully

Using your bank's app can let you keep track of your balance, move money between accounts and make bank transfers to other people.

You can protect your smartphone or tablet with a PIN, password or biometric login to unlock the screen. You also have to enter login details before you can sign in to your bank's app.

Although these can protect your account from unauthorised use, let your bank know immediately if you lose your phone. They can then temporarily block access to your account through mobile banking.

You can also remotely disable most phones, which could stop anyone from using your mobile banking or stealing your personal details.

How to use your bank's mobile phone app safely

Sending bank transfers

Check the details carefully before you send funds to someone else. Getting one digit of the account number wrong could mean your money goes to the wrong person. Carefully check:

  • The sort code

  • The account number

  • The payee's name

  • The reference

  • The amount

Most high street banks now offer a scheme known as confirmation of payee. This means that if you make a transfer to someone you haven’t paid before, your bank will check that the name you’ve been given matches the name registered to the account number and sort code. 

If it doesn’t, you will receive a warning. This message might let you know that the name is a close match or simply incorrect, meaning you can double-check if you have the right details. This scheme is currently only available for Faster Payments and CHAPS transfers; it does not include Bacs payments. 

If you send a payment to the wrong account, contact your bank immediately. They may get the money back, although this can take a long time.

Here is how to send a bank transfer using online banking

Avoid bank scams and identity theft

You could have money stolen from your bank account if someone:

  • Gets hold of your personal details and pretends to be you 

  • Tricks you into giving them your bank details or card number

Fraudsters may try to steal your money or personal information by contacting you via emails, phone calls, text messages or in person.

Never give anyone your bank details, passwords, or other personal information if they contact you.

If you need to sign in to online banking, go straight to your bank's website instead of clicking on a link in an email or another website.

If someone from your bank asks for personal details on the phone, insist on calling your bank back to provide the information. You can use a phone number you know to be correct by checking online.

Here is what to look for online to make sure you are using your bank's real website and that it is secure. This guide also shows you how to avoid identity theft online and offline.

Stay aware of the latest cybercrimes and fraud by using the police's ActionFraud website

Use your debit card safely

You can prevent someone else from using your debit card by:

  • Keeping your card safe and letting your bank know immediately if it is lost or stolen

  • Keeping your PIN secret and changing it if anyone else finds out what it is

  • Keeping your 16-digit card number and CVV number* to yourself because someone else could use them to make purchases

*A three-digit security number printed on the back of your card that is used to authorise transactions online. (American Express cards have a four-digit CVV number on the front of the card.) 

If you report your card as stolen or lost, your bank will cancel it so nobody can use it to spend your money. They will then send you a new card with a new 16-digit card number.

You can usually change your PIN through internet banking or at some cash machines.

Using cash machines

When you withdraw money from an ATM, protect your PIN by checking for:

  • Anyone who is watching you

  • Any devices or contraptions attached to the cash machine

  • Hidden cameras that could record you entering your PIN

Here is what to look out for and how to use ATMs safely

Shopping online

When you shop online, you can use your debit card to make purchases, but it’s important to keep your card details safe by:

  • Using retailers you know and trust

  • Making sure you are using the retailer's real website and not a fraudulent copy of it – spelling mistakes, broken English and grammatical errors could indicate it’s a scam site 

  • Checking the web page is secure when you enter personal information or card details – check you are using an “https://” address or secure server internet connection

Here is how to check a website is secure and legitimate.

If your debit card is a Visa or MasterCard, they each provide extra security when you use them online. You can set up a password you have to enter to spend on your card using:

Key points to keep you safe

  • Create strong passwords

  • Use antivirus software on your laptop or computer

  • Never hand over personal details 

  • Never click on links in emails that “appear” to be from your bank

  • Regularly check your bank statements

  • Protect your PIN and keep your bank card safe

  • Only shop on websites you trust

What to do if something goes wrong

Contact your bank as soon as possible if someone uses your account fraudulently. Your bank can help prevent it from happening again, and you may be able to get your money back.

Note that your refund can be delayed if your bank has grounds to believe you’ve been negligent with the security of your account – for example, if you gave your PIN to someone else. 

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, it’s also important to report it to ActionFraud or if it is an emergency, contact the police.

New bank accounts are offered all the time, so compare all of the best options to make sure you get the right one for you.