With 431 million active account holders, PayPal is the most popular choice for consumers and businesses. PayPal is a great way to transfer your money securely when making online transactions. Once your card is linked with PayPal, you don’t have to give your credit card details to different websites. You can pay using your PayPal Account and no one will find your card information.

However, there’s a downside to PayPal being the world’s most recognizable online payment system: It’s also the biggest target. Fortunately, if you use PayPal, you can maximize the security of your sensitive payment information by following a few simple steps:

Always Enable Security Updates

Software is complex and often has minor bugs. Hackers find and exploit these bugs to install malicious software. “Malware” – short for “malicious software” – can capture everything that you type (including your PayPal username and password) and send it to scammers who use the information to access your account.

Fortunately, device makers and application developers are very diligent about providing updates to operating systems and applications. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep your system and applications updated with the latest releases. The easiest way to do this is to enable automatic updates for your system and applications when possible.

Install Anti-Virus Software

Viruses or malware are malicious software that can be installed on your system through security holes or user actions. Someone could send an infected file, or you could download something that seemed safe – but wasn’t. Just like a human virus, malware can be spread in many ways and it’s usually unclear how it got onto your system. Anti-virus software can help prevent the installation of new malware and will detect most malware if it does get installed.

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If malware gets on your system, it can capture everything you type, like the passwords to your email account, PayPal account, and other financial accounts. These can be sent back to scammers and give them access your accounts, causing financial problems and embarrassment. Malware can read all the files on your system, including your email, your financial records, and personal information. Malware can also take over your system to send out SPAM emails, or attack other people’s accounts. If malware takes over your system, you’re not just a victim – your system becomes part of the problem.

VIRUS word cloud, tag cloud, graphics – security concept

Anti-virus software can run scheduled checks, and will check incoming email for malware that’s snuck onto your system. Traditionally, malware has been a problem for PCs, but more malware is being seen on mobile operating systems (like Android and iOS). So consider anti-virus protection for your tablet and smartphone.

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It’s important to stay cautious: anti-virus software will catch most things, but it won’t catch everything. There is a variety of good anti-virus products available and many of them have free versions. For example, Microsoft Essentials, AVG, Avast, Commodo, and Malwarebytes all have free versions that are highly rated. Remember to enable automatic updates, because the anti-virus developers are constantly identifying and addressing new threats

Create A Unique Password

As always, creating a unique password is the vital first step to securing any online presence. While using one password across multiple sites is easier, it can leave you particularly vulnerable. If someone trying to gain access to your sensitive information figures out your password on any one of those sites, they can then access your other accounts. Especially with an app like PayPal that is connected to bank information, it’s important to create a strong password that you don’t reuse for any other accounts.

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Use a Password On Your PC

If you forget your password, PayPal and other online accounts use email to help you recover your account access. In most cases, if a thief can access your PC or mobile device, they can also immediately access your email. This makes it easier to attack your online accounts and steal personal information.

saved password

That’s why we recommend using a password on personal computers. If someone can access your system for even a few minutes, they can install malware. A password will make it harder for a thief to access information on your system in the event that it’s stolen. And even if the thief eventually gains access to your system, this password gives you more time to change your online, email, and PayPal passwords.

Secure Your Smart Phone

Don’t forget about your smartphone and tablet. Most people don’t secure these as well as they should. By following a few simple tips from PayPal and NCSA, you can have greater security and better peace of mind:

  • Always activate a PIN or lock function for your mobile device.

A PIN is the simplest and most important thing you can do to ensure security on your mobile device, especially if it’s lost or stolen.

  • Automate software updates.

Many software programs can automatically connect and update to defend against known risks. Turn on automatic updates on your mobile device if that option is available.

  • Use common sense when downloading apps.
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Unknown or repackaged apps can contain malware designed to steal financial information from a mobile device. So always purchase or download apps from companies that you trust and check reviews. When installing new applications, review permissions and decide whether you’re comfortable granting the access that an application requests.

Enable 2FA

After creating a unique password, you can take advantage of a second layer of security PayPal provides. This is called the PayPal Security Key, which is a form of two-step verification. With the Security Key enabled, Paypal will create a step after you enter your password when logging into your account. It will have you click to send a code to your mobile device.

One you receive the code via SMS, you type in the key and then proceed to the next page. This again creates an extra barrier to someone gaining access to sensitive financial information: even if they have your password, they can’t get through the second layer of security without access to your mobile phone.

Never Ignore Email From PayPal

PayPal’s email system is an easy way to keep track of any suspicious transactions. Anytime you spend or receive payment on PayPal, the company can email you for confirmation.

Pay attention to emails you receive. If you get a confirmation for an interaction that doesn’t look right, you can contact the company and have the situation investigated.