How Well Does Your Bank Protect Your Personal Information?

Today’s guest post is from Patrick Russo. Patrick writes for DepositAccounts.com, a website that monitors products and rates at more than 7,500 banks and credit unions and that pairs that information with comprehensive commentary, reviews, tools, and community forums to equip and guide depository banking consumers.

Identity theft and guarding personal information are important topics as criminal activity moves into the new age, and increasing hordes of people use Internet & mobile solutions for their financial life. Enjoy today’s post! Here’s Patrick: 

The ever-unfolding epoch of the digital age has introduced many new issues related to how companies handle all of their data. Given the rise in publicity of government-backed hacking units operating outside of the United States, consumer demand for the protection of their sensitive information has only increased (to 73% of consumers according to this study published by the Ponemon Institute) – and this concern is still just one side of the coin. On the other side is a concern for more internal threats posed by the activities of our own government, cyber pirates, and the various companies and agencies who track all of your financial moves (check out this list at ConsumerReports.org). The ubiquity of services now offered online has turned that information into a proverbial consumer good that is bought, sold, and occasionally stolen in the sleepless world of the Internet.

The Ponemon study also sheds light on the level of trust consumers have for particular industries and companies to guard the privacy of their personal information in the battle against these threats. As shown in one of the graphics, consumers are finding this privacy to be of increasing importance and yet simultaneously feel as though control over their personal information is decreasing. These sentiments are understandable given the push-and-pull tensions at work within a competitive, yet regulated, open market. Between a bill designed to protect consumer privacy being killed in a House committee and government agencies demanding sensitive information from widely popular corporations, consumers’ forfeiture of privacy seems to be the necessary cost of partaking in the goods and services provided by our economy.

In light of the perceptions and threats surrounding consumer privacy, the reality of how secure your information is should be of elevated importance. According to the study, identity theft and government surveillance filled the top 2 spots for privacy-related threats in the eyes of consumers, with “Annoying Advertising” ranking towards the bottom. What security systems or accountability structures are in place to protect your personal information from nefarious hackers or desperate dumpster divers? How easily could the government obtain it from companies to whom you have entrusted it? How much are we as consumers okay with other entities knowing about us without our permission?

These are all good questions and become more pressing when asked of the financial institutions that hold our individual assets and monitor our spending – namely, the banks. Surprisingly, the Ponemon study found that the banking industry ranked the third most trusted among consumers regarding their privacy, while the Internet & Social Media industry came in last. One possible explanation for this is that consumers want to believe their bank is secure simply because it holds their money, so they view it that way. More likely, though, is the fact that banks have been compelled to such a high degree of disclosure of information-sharing practices by regulatory boards, and this transparency engenders an increased sense of trust on the whole from consumers.

U.S. Bank, the most trusted company in the banking industry according to the study, adheres to a consumer privacy pledge in order to build customer confidence in its commitment to protecting privacy. Their pledge is based on the FDIC’s Privacy Rule that lays out requirements for banks in regard to how they handle customer information. Most institutions operating purely online, like Ally Bank or CIT Bank, have also published similar policies for how they handle online privacy. You should inquire about your own financial institution’s practices to see if you are comfortable with how your information is being used.

Many consumers also read through nationwide bank reviews to get real-life glimpses of practices at particular banks and credit unions. How does the institution holding your deposits fair after reviewing the above measurements? What pieces of your information do they share without asking, and when are they required to ask before sharing? If you’ve ever been curious how that credit card company mailing you their latest offer got a hold of your information, you should consider reviewing your bank’s policies on account information sharing.

As the proliferation of the digital age continues, it is crucial that you are cognizant of the many ways in which your information is stored and tracked by the various businesses and websites you interact with on a day-to-day basis. Learning and addressing where your personal information is susceptible to devious eyes, or where it is painting an incorrect picture of you, is an important practice if you hope to avoid major issues with your financial identity down the road.

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