Online Banking Security: Bank with Confidence

Online banking is about much more than just convenience. Banks that do business exclusive on the Web typically offer higher interest rates on savings, free bill-pay services, and some even offer free posting when mailing a check on your behalf. Because these institutions have no branch offices to maintain, their costs are lower. Those savings are passed on to the consumer.

But many people shy from online banking because they worry about security. Here’s what you need to know about online banking to gain the benefits of these services and still feel secure.

The Truth About Online Banking

Internet banking is actually less risky than shopping with your credit card at a store. Your data can be stolen more easily from inadequately secured wireless networks at stores than from your properly protected home computer. And the Web security industry has made great strides in ensuring the antivirus software and firewalls they use are effective.

When banking online, the information you share directly with the bank is secure through a process called SSL encryption. You will know you are on a secure page of the site through the prefix “https” instead of “http.” This technology ensures your data is safe and in accessible to outside parties.

Avoiding Danger

The real danger of online banking comes when consumers inadvertently give personal information away to someone other than the bank. The risk comes primarily from “fishing” emails, where criminals try to trick you into giving away your user name, password or other personal information. Criminals may also send emails that copy your bank’s look and set up websites designed to make you think they are your bank. Protecting yourself from such traps is easy:

  • Always type in the URL of the bank directly
  • Never follow a link from email to your bank
  • Never answer an email with your ID, password, date of birth, social security number or any other personal information
  • Research banks carefully before choosing one
  • Only do business with banks you know and recognize

Managing Your Password

You should never write down your password for your bank accounts. Obviously, it’s impossible to remember every password you have. Therefore, you should choose one complicated enough to be unobvious, but easy for you to remember. Use that password for banking only.

While security professionals will tell you to change the password regularly, it seems a recommendation that may be too inconvenient for most individuals to follow. That’s why it’s so important that your password be difficult for others to guess. Let your internet browser store other less vital passwords for you and keep a password-protected back up of the password file in a safe place.

Maintaining Security

Always monitor your banking transactions online. Check every account statement regularly, examining fees and charges carefully. If you save every receipt when shopping, you can check them against your account. If you see suspicious activity, notify the bank at once. Keep your operating system and browser up to date as enhancements are released by the software providers. You should also scan the computer periodically for viruses, just in case.

Additional Security Measures

You can make online banking even safer by using a spare computer, possibly an older one that you still have in the house. Be sure to set it up with a firewall and anti-virus software, and then use that computer for online banking only. This reduces the change of picking up any spyware than might compromise your secure information. When you only visit your banking website and none other, you prevent viruses from ever entering your computer in the first place.