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Bank Online Safety

Follow these tips to help you stay safe when banking online.

Create a strong password for your account. The longer the password, the harder it is for someone to figure out, especially if you use a combination of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Don't make a password out of a pet's name, birthdate, or other personal information.

Keep your ID/username and password private. Don't share it with anyone and don't leave it where someone could find it. Change your password regularly; change it immediately if you think it has been compromised. Don't allow your browser to "Remember my password" or "Remember me on this computer" for financial accounts.

Log off the banking website when you are done with your session or if you have to step away from the computer, and close the browser window after signing off. On shared computers, clear your "cached" activity by clicking on the "Tools" menu (in most browsers) and selecting "Clear Recent History" or something similar. (The words may be slightly different depending on the browser you use.)

Password-protect your home wireless network so that strangers can't access your wireless Internet account and possibly capture the data you send and receive. Call your Internet service provider for instructions on how to do this.

Use a firewall, which is a virtual barrier between your computer and the Internet. Your computer's operating system (OS) may have a built-in firewall; make sure it's turned on. Update your antivirus and antispyware software to guard against new malware as it appears.

Avoid online banking when using public or unencrypted wireless networks (Wi-Fi). If you must use public Wi-Fi, take precautions. Look for the closed padlock or unbroken key in the browser frame and an "s" after "http" (https://) in the Web address, which indicates an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) connection.

Donít send sensitive information via email, chat or instant messaging (IM).

Know how much time it takes your bank to get a payment to your creditors after receiving your online bill payment request. Some payments, typically to larger creditors, are made electronically and may reach their destination within a couple of days of your request. Payments to smaller creditors, such as your dentist, may take a week or more because the bank sends an actual check to the recipient. Leave plenty of time for payments to reach your creditors before the due date.

Monitor your account activity regularly--even daily. In most cases, you must report unauthorized account activity to the bank within a certain time period (say, within 60 days of when the transaction first appeared on your statement) for full protection. If you don't, you may not be reimbursed for fraudulent transactions.

Check your monthly statements every month, even if you fail to get an email reminder. Place a reminder on your calendar of when to check for a new statement each month.

Phishing emails are fraudulent messages that try to get you to reveal sensitive information by making you believe you are communicating with a legitimate business. Often, these messages include a link to a copycat website, which is designed to look authentic and lure you into revealing your personal information. And remember, Central Bank will never contact you and ask for your Social Security number or password via email or phone.

 

Other ways to protect against ID Theft

 

Shred statements and applications you get in the mail that you donít want to keep, including credit card applications, insurance forms, financial statements, health forms, billing statements for utilities, phone service, etc.

Cut up expired credit and debit cards, cutting through the numbers.

Protect your Social Security number, all account numbers, and your passwords. Don't carry these numbers in your wallet. Give out your Social Security number only if absolutely necessary, and offer to provide another type of personal identifier, if possible.

Secure your personal documents at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.

Minimize the personal information you print on checks. You don't need to include your Social Security number, phone number or driver's license number.

Monitor your bank and credit card transactions for unauthorized transactions. Crooks with your account number generally start with small transactions to see if you'll notice.

Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills do not arrive on time, follow up with your creditors.

Don't create obvious passwords, such as your birth date, child's name or birth date, mother's maiden name or the last four digits of your Social Security number.

If you conduct business online, use your own computer. A public computer is less secure.

Never respond to emails requesting to "verify" your personal information and identifiers. Your bank, credit card company, online payment system, the IRS--none of these types of organizations will call or e-mail asking for your confidential information. They already have it.

Never use e-mail to communicate sensitive personal information such as your user name, password, Social Security number or credit card number.

Donít use your PDA or cell phone to store credit card numbers or other financial information. Don't store passwords, tax returns or other financial information on your computer hard drive. Back up your computer data and store it away from your computer.

Keep your computer system and browser software up to date, and set to the highest security level you can tolerate.

Check your credit report at least once/year. There is only one source authorized to give you ONE FREE annual credit file disclosure per year from each of the three consumer credit reporting companies: Call 877-322-8228 or visit  www.AnnualCreditReport.com.

If your ID or credit cards are lost or stolen, immediately notify your credit providers by phone and then notify each of the three credit bureaus to request a "Fraud Alert" be placed on your file. Placing this alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. Posting a Fraud Alert will also make it difficult for you to open instant credit, so be sure to read all information before engaging a Fraud Alert. It also entitles you to free copies of your credit report. When reviewing your credit report, look for inquiries from companies you have not contacted, accounts you did not open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently. 

(Tips gathered from multiple sources including the National Federation of Credit Counselors and the Better Business Bureau.)