Stay safe when banking online

Online banking is convenient and fast but precautions must be taken to ensure your personal information and finances are secure

Online banking offers the convenience of accessing your bank account at any time from your phone or computer. Consumers should not only research prospective banks but also take security precautions when deciding which bank best fits their needs.

A bank’s website contains a wealth of information. Consumers can find out how to contact the bank, products and services as well as other important details.

But Michigan State University Extension wants to ensure people are aware of what to look for and the steps to take in online banking. The bank’s website should display a Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) logo, to attest to the bank’s insurance status.

However, the consumer should take the additional step of going to Bank Find. This website provides additional information about the bank, including the start date of its deposit insurance. The consumer should then contact the FDIC if a bank is not listed on the Bank Find site.

Always verify the bank’s web address. Fraudulent websites might have names similar to a legitimate bank’s website. Consumers might misspell the website address or select a phony site after using an online search engine. Secure websites will typically show the “https” prefix to the URL as opposed to the normal “http” or regular websites (the “s” literally stands for secure). One might also see a miniature padlock on the screen. Look for these symbols before entering any personal information.

It is imperative that consumers protect their privacy. Banks are required to give customers a copy of their privacy policy. Reviewing the privacy policy informs consumers about how the bank handles personal information. The bank may use personal information to market their products or share it with other businesses. The bank should detail the provisions that allow consumers to opt out of the dissemination of their personal information.

Consumers should be proactive in securing their safety when banking online. Check bank accounts often. Notify the bank if there has been any mishandling of your account. Memorize your pin number or password and use only your personal phone or computer to access the accounts. Set up alerts through the bank. These alerts will be sent via email or text and notify consumers whenever any of their accounts has activity. Lastly, install firewall and antivirus software on your computer. Keep the antivirus software updated and run it often.

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