Franklin D. Roosevelt stated, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Of course, FDR did not have to worry about Internet banking. For many users, accessing account information via the Internet is a daily occurrence. The convenience of 24/7/365 accessibility to financial information overshadows any fear information could be compromised. These users come from a diverse background, but for the most part, they make use of the Internet on a frequent, and even daily, basis.
For others, the thought of sitting at a computer and moving their money without a teller being involved to keep it straight and secure is both daunting and frightening. For some, fears are founded in the belief that should accounts be accessed from the Internet, "THEY" will get the password. Of course, "THEY" are the bad guys and gals who are trying to gain access to your money.
The most common myth about Internet banking is that simply accessing online accounts is a surefire way to get your money stolen. While there are no guarantees that criminal activity against your account will not occur in the electronic world, the same applies to armed robbery of your local brick and mortar financial institution in the real world. Both types of crimes affect your financial institution and your money.
There are safeguards in place at financial institutions that should help to alleviate any concerns. First, the NCUA (National Credit Union Administration) and the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) insure deposits at most credit unions and banks. These agencies are responsible for ensuring that financial institutions operate in a safe manner and are protecting the personal information of their clients. In addition, some institutions might contract with private insurance companies that provide even higher limits.
Second, financial institutions use secure, encrypted communications to protect the contents of their client's transactions when performing business over the Internet. The likelihood of a client having their login credentials stolen over the network during the login process is extremely remote, especially with the use of encryption. It would be more likely that a malicious program in the form of a virus or Trojan installed on the client's computer would capture the keystrokes during the login, but one should apply that concern to all personal information typed into a computer and not just to Internet banking.
So what can you do to make yourself safe while you are using the Internet for financial transactions?
First, avoid clicking web page links in emails and other online media that appear to come from your financial institution. Your financial institution will provide you with their website address, and you should manually type that address into the browser when you wish to connect. It can be stored on your personal machine as a bookmark, but it is important that every time you connect, you visually verify that the address in the browser toolbar matches the one given to you by the financial institution.
Second, before you enter your user ID and password as a login, make sure that the connection is encrypted. You can verify the connection by ensuring that the website address begins with https:// and not http:// (the "s" indicates a secure connection) and that the "lock" appears on the browser. On all common browsers, such as Internet Explorer, Netscape, and Firefox, a small yellow padlock will appear on the bottom status bar when the connection has been encrypted. If that lock does not appear, but the address appears correct, contact your financial institution for assistance.
Third, do not access a financial institution's website from computers that you do not control. Since you are not the owner of the computer, you may not know how current the anti-virus software is, if the computer has a Trojan backdoor or key logger program installed, or if other problems exist. Also, remember that browsers may keep a cached copy of web transactions. As such, it may be possible that you are inadvertently leaving a copy of your sensitive information on the computer you are using.
Lastly, if anything seems wrong, it most likely is. If you are seeing different web pages or significant spelling and grammar problems with the web site that you think is owned by your financial institution, stop using it by closing your browser and call the institution. If you are getting email that appears to come from your financial institution asking you to login and verify information, DO NOT login or click the provided link. Forward a copy of the entire email to your financial institution for verification.
Keep in mind that nothing in life is without risk, but Internet banking has evolved into a viable, secure means of performing routine business transactions. With proper care on the part of both the institution and the client, it can be a safe and rewarding experience.
These helpful tips are provided by Digital Defense, Inc., a computer security company working with your bank as a responsible member of the community to help insure the privacy and security of our nation's financial information.