Just within the last several years, the Internet has emerged as a highly convenient way to conduct banking business, as well as shop for financial services. As the use of the Internet continues to expand, more banks are using the web to offer products and services or enhance its communication with existing customers.
However, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), safe online banking involves making wise choices - decisions that will help users avoid costly surprises or even scams.
Whether selecting a traditional bank or an online bank with no physical office, users should make sure a bank is legitimate and that deposits are federally insured. The following are tips for consumers considering banking over the Internet:
1. Read key information about the bank posted on its Web site. Peruse the "About Us" section on the bank's Web site where a brief history of the bank, its official name, address, and its insurance coverage from the FDIC is featured.
2. Protect yourself from fraudulent Web site. Be careful to avoid copycat Web sites that use a name or Web address similar to, but not the same as, that of a real financial institution. Their intent is to lure potential customers in giving personal information, such as your account number and password. Making sure you have typed the correct Web site address of your bank before conducting a transaction.
3. Verify the bank's insurance status. To verify a bank's insurance status, look for the familiar FDIC logo or the words "Member FDIC" or "FDIC Insured" on the Web site. Internet users may also check the FDIC's online database of FDIC-insured institutions.
4. Due to insurance purposes, a bank may use different names for its online and traditional services. Your deposits at the parent bank are added together with those at the Web site and insured for up to the maximum amount covered for one bank.
5. Only deposits offered by the FDIC-insured institutions are protected by the FDIC. Nondeposit investments and insurance products, such as mutual funds, stocks, annuities, and life insurance policies sold through Web sites or at a bank are not FDIC-insured, are not guaranteed by the bank, and can lose value.
6. Quite often banks that are chartered overseas are not FDIC insured. If you choose to use a bank chartered overseas, it is important to note that the FDIC may not insure your deposits.
It's important to remember that the Internet is a public network. So, it's important to learn how to safeguard banking information, credit card numbers, Social Security Number and other personal data. Look at the bank's Web site for information about its security practices, or contact the bank. Also, be informed about the Website's security features including:
1. Encryption: the process of scrambling private information to prevent unauthorized access.
2. Passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs): Used when accessing an account online. Choose a password unique to you and consider changing it regularly.
3. General Security: Security provided by your personal computer such as virus protection and physical access controls should be used and updated regularly.
Considered an added convenience to customers, some banks may offer links to merchants, retail stores, travel agents and other sites.
Keep in mind that nonofficial Web sites linked to your banks' site are not FDIC-insured. These company's products and services may not be insured by the FDIC and your bank may not guarantee the products and services. Make sure you are comfortable with the reputation of a company before making a transaction and never provide a credit card or debit card number unless you initiate the transaction.