How to Conduct Online Banking Safely

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I’ve noticed a surge recently, in search engine referrals to this site on online banking fraud, so it’s time for a refresher on how to safely carry out your online banking.

As use of the Internet continues to expand exponentially, banks and other financial institutions have increased their use of the Internet to deliver products and enhanced financial services, or simply to improve communications with consumers.

The Internet, despite its fundamental flaws, does offer the potential for safe, convenient, and new ways to shop for financial services and conduct banking business, any day, any time.

While it’s true that the Internet has the “potential” for safe and secure financial transactions, safe banking online relies on you making good choices and decisions that will help you avoid costly surprises, or even carefully crafted scams and phishing schemes.

Despite all the hype concerning inpenetrateable system security, we have learned, much to our detriment, that no such inpenetrateable systems exist.

The inescapable fact remains; you are your own best protection while conducting financial transactions on the Internet. So it’s important that you learn about, and take advantage of, security features offered by your financial institution.

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Some examples are:

Encryption is the process of scrambling private information to prevent unauthorized access. To remind you that your transmission is encrypted, most Internet browsers display a small icon on your screen that looks like a lock or a key, when you conduct secure transactions online. Avoid sending sensitive information, such as account numbers, through unsecured e-mail.

Passwords, or personal identification numbers, should be used when accessing an account online. Your password should be unique to you, and this is extremely important, you should change it regularly. Do not use birthdates or other numbers or words that may be easy for others to guess.

Always carefully control to whom you give your password. For example, if you use a financial company that requires your passwords in order to gather your financial data from various sources, make sure that you are aware of the company’s privacy and security practices.

General security over your personal computer such as virus protection and physical access controls should be used and updated regularly. Contact your hardware and software suppliers, or Internet service provider, to ensure you have the latest in security updates.

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Tips on safe computing practices when conducting your online banking at home, or at a public computer:

Never leave your computer unattended once you have signed in to online banking.

After completing your transactions, ensure that you sign out of online banking, clear your cache, and close your browser. Often, it is easy to forget to sign out of an online banking session

Keep your password and card number safe. This seems like a no brainer, but surprisingly many users do forget this critical step in the process.

Do not share, disclose, or provide your bank card number, or password, to another party or website other than your bank. Most banks will not send you an email requesting this information. If your bank practices this very unsafe routine; you should change banks.

Do not save your bank card number or password on a publicly accessed computer.

If you do use a public access computer such as at an Internet café or public library, to be safe change your password after completing your session by calling your bank’s telephone banking number.

When selecting a password, choose a series of characters that cannot be easily guessed by anyone else. The best passwords are made up of an alpha-numeric combination that’s more than four characters long and a combination of capital and lower case letters.

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This is an example of an Online Banking email phishing attempt.

Don’t use:

A password you use for any other service.

Your name or a close relative’s name.

Your birth date, telephone number or address, or those of a close relative.

Your bank account number or bank card number.

Do not share your personal verification question answers with anyone, and do not disclose them in any emails. It’s simple; giving your password answers to another person, or company, places your finances and privacy at risk.

For an article on Phishing and how to protect yourself see Gone Phishing? Protect Yourself – Stop · Think · Click , elsewhere in this Blog.

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10 Comments

Filed under Don't Get Scammed, Don't Get Hacked, email scams, Interconnectivity, Internet Safety, Malware Advisories, Online Banking, Windows Tips and Tools

10 responses to “How to Conduct Online Banking Safely

  1. Pingback: Posts about Finances as of August 14, 2009 | Learned Capital

  2. Dave Brooks

    Excellent article! Unfortunately the sad truth is even exercising these security measures doesn’t guarantee your online financial safety. I’m very online safety/security conscious, even so my ATM card number was recently used, in the middle of the night in Georgia, while I was sound asleep in New Hampshire. Luckily Bank of America has decent monitoring, and I have a ton of alerts set up to email me when certain things happen with my account. I woke up in the morning with an alert that my card was used while I was asleep, and another email from Bank of America that they had detected suspicious activity on my account, had frozen the transaction, and placed a lock on my account to prevent further activity. A call to them confirmed the illegal activity, cancelled my ATM card, and reversed the charge.
    My number was likely stolen from a hacked online database of a company that I had made an online purchase from in the past, and I only purchase from reputable vendors.
    I have since opened a second account with an ATM card, and use only that account for online purchases, I keep a balance of about 5 bucks in it, when I want to buy something online, I transfer the purchase amount from my main account to the “internet” account to cover it, at least that way my main account is less exposed, and if it happens again I’ll be able to determine if it was the “internet” or “local purchase” card that was compromised.

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Dave,

      As always, great to hear from you.

      Thank you for sharing this chilling story. You being a computer tech, and being as security conscious as you are (as you so rightly point out), shows just how cautious we all need to be in online financial transactions.

      Some years back, I set up a special prepaid credit card only for online transactions, and like you with your second ATM card, I only fund that card when required to complete an online purchase. The current reality is – safety, unfortunately, has a price.

      BTW, this unfortunate set of circumstances would make a great “first person” article on the dangers of online financial transactions. It would be very cool if you would consider that. I know, I know, I’m pushy. LOL

      Best,

      Bill

  3. Dave Brooks

    I’ll see if I can add a bit more to it, you don’t mind some copy and paste I hope? LOL

    • Bill Mullins

      Hey Dave,

      Cut, copy and paste – paste, copy and cut, or whatever – you always write great articles! Looking forward to it. Thanks Dave.

      Talk to ya later,

      Bill

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