With so much online banking business handled these days, it pays to have some Internet safety know-how. The wide spread use of online services has made banking much more convenient for the average account holder.
No longer is a trip to the bank a necessary weekly errand. Everything can be handled from the home computer, tablet, or cell phone. With a few quick clicks, funds can be deposited or transferred, bills can be paid, and Reminders or alerts can also be set, to alert the account holder if a large purchase has been made, if a bill is due, or if the account balance is getting low.
These services can help avoid bank fees and mishandling of funds. However, as with any time money is involved, the smart consumer should be savvy about how to use their online account.
1. Protect the password
The password and PIN numbers needed to open an online banking account should be protected. Thieves are constantly on the lookout for careless people. Never write the password down or keep it where people can find it. Try to make the password as sophisticated as possible. Rather than a word, try making it an acronym of a favorite quote that includes a few symbols replacing letters, such as Tm@t^b& for “take me out to the ball game.”
2. Only use a secure computer
If possible, avoid using a computer that might not be secure when doing online banking. The security protection software of the home computer or mobile devices should be kept up to date, to prevent hacking and viruses. Also, make sure that the bank’s website is also secured. Often, a small lock or key icon will appear in the top of the browser window to indicate encryption. This means that the content being exchanged is encrypted, so that sensitive information is not available for thieves. Also never provide personal information through an email or over the phone. Banks will never ask for sensitive content unless through a secure method.
3. Be sure the bank is legitimate
Many banks these days rely heavily on online users. This opens their pool of customers to more than just their physical location. Often, with services such as “deposit at home” and waved ATM fees, it is possible to not even need a physical branch to do banking. However, this opportunity has also attracted thieves that set up websites that look like banks, but aren’t. Read about the bank, the official address of the headquarters, and its FDIC coverage. Also, be sure that the website of a legitimate bank is typed correctly. Some unsavory people purchase a website with a misspelling and set it up to look like the real deal in order to get your information.
4. Be careful in public places
One of the best conveniences of online banking is accessing the accounts for any reason at any time in any place. It is good to suddenly remember that a bill is due and have the ability to pay the account via a mobile device while in a restaurant on a lunch break. However, that freedom comes with some responsibility. Pay attention to your surroundings. Unscrupulous people will wait until their prey’s attention is focused on their task at hand and their guard is dropped, so they can look at the screen and gather sensitive information. By simply being aware of those around, the situation can be avoided.
5. Know your consumer rights Ask the bank about the account’s fraud protection for online banking. Depending on the type of account, the protection might be included or could be added for a small fee that is often worth paying for the security it provides. Also, know how to lodge a complaint if fraud is suspected. The bank should be contacted immediately. Many of them have robust fraud departments that can handle the situation. A number of consumer protection organizations exist that could also be useful in restoring lost funds.
Written by Angela Landrum
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