Tips for Safe Banking Over the Internet

Safe Banking over the InternetAs use of the Internet continues to expand, more banks and thrifts are using the Web to offer products and services or otherwise enhance communications with consumers.

The Internet offers the potential for safe, convenient new ways to shop for financial services and conduct banking business, any day, any time. However, safe banking online involves making good choices – decisions that will help you avoid costly surprises or even scams.

This page offers information and tips to help you if you are thinking about or already using online banking systems. We will tell you how to:

  • Confirm that an online bank is legitimate and that your deposits are insured
  • Keep your personal information private and secure
  • Understand your rights as a consumer

Learn where to go for more assistance from banking regulators.

Confirm that an Online Bank Is Legitimate and that Your Deposits Are Insured

Whether you are selecting a traditional bank or an online bank that has no physical offices, it's wise to make sure that it is legitimate and that your deposits are federally insured. Here are tips specifically designed for consumers considering banking over the Internet.

Read key information about the bank posted on its Web site.

Most bank Web sites have an "About Us" section or something similar that describes the institution. You may find a brief history of the bank, the official name and address of the bank's headquarters, and information about its insurance coverage from the FDIC.

Protect yourself from fraudulent Web sites.

For example, watch out for copycat Web sites that deliberately use a name or Web address very similar to, but not the same as, that of a real financial institution. The intent is to lure you into clicking onto their Web site and giving your personal information, such as your account number and password. Always check to see that you have typed the correct Web site address for your bank before conducting a transaction.

Verify the bank's insurance status.

FDIC logoTo verify a bank's insurance status, look for the familiar FDIC logo or the words "Member FDIC" or "FDIC Insured" on the Web site.

Also, you should check the FDIC's online database of FDIC-insured institutions. You can search for an institution by going to the at FDIC's home page and selecting "Is My Bank Insured?" Enter the official name, city, and state of the bank, and click the "Find My Institution" button. A positive match will display the official name of the bank, the date it became insured, its insurance certificate number, and the main office location for the bank, and its primary government regulator. If your bank does not appear on this list, contact the FDIC.

Some bank Web sites provide links directly to the FDIC's Web site to assist you in identifying or verifying the FDIC insurance protection of their deposits.

Also remember that not all banks operating on the Internet are insured by the FDIC. Many banks that are not FDIC-insured are chartered overseas. If you choose to use a bank chartered overseas, it is important for you to know that the FDIC may not insure your deposits. Check with your bank or the FDIC if you are not certain.

For insurance purposes, be aware that a bank may use different names for its online and traditional services; this does not mean you are dealing with separate banks.

This means, for example, that to determine your maximum FDIC insurance coverage, your deposits at the parent bank will be added together with those at the separately named bank Web site and will be insured for up to the maximum amount covered for one bank. Talk to your banker if you have questions.

Know where to get more information about FDIC insurance.

Don't worry about your deposit insurance coverage if you or your family has less than $100,000 in all your accounts combined at the same FDIC-insured bank. But if your accounts total $100,000 or more, find out if they're within the insurance limit. Contact your bank for more information.

For additional assistance from the FDIC about the legitimacy of an institution or the insurance of your deposits, call the FDIC's Division of Compliance and Consumer Affairs toll-free at 800-934-3342 or send an e-mail via the FDIC's online Customer Assistance page.

The FDIC's Web site also has an interactive service called EDIE (Electronic Deposit Insurance Estimator) that can help you determine the amount of your insurance coverage. Or, you can read the online deposit insurance brochure "Your Insured Deposits".

It's important to note that only deposits offered by FDIC-insured institutions are protected by the FDIC. Nondeposit investment and insurance products, such as mutual funds, stocks, annuities and life insurance policies that may be sold through Web sites or at the bank itself, are not FDIC-insured, are not guaranteed by the bank, and may lose value.

FDIC 2004 http://www.fdic.gov/bank/individual/online/safe.html
Help Keep Your Transactions Secure

The Internet is a public network. Therefore, it is important to learn how to safe guard your banking information, credit card numbers, Social Security Number and other personal data.

  • Look at your bank's Web site for information about its security practices, or contact the bank directly.

Also learn about and take advantage of security features. Some examples are:

  • Encryption is the process of scrambling private information to prevent unauthorized access. To show that your transmission is encrypted, some browsers display a small "lock" or a "key" whenever you conduct secure transactions online. Avoid sending sensitive information, such as account numbers, through unsecured e-mail.
  • Passwords or personal identification numbers (PINS) should be used when accessing an account online. Your password should be unique to you and you should change it regularly. Do not use birth dates or other numbers or words that may be easy for others to guess. Be careful whom you give your password to. For example, if you use a financial company that requires your passwords in order to gather your financial data from various sources, make sure you learn about the company's privacy and security practices.
  • General security over your personal computer such as virus protection and physical access controls should be used and updated regularly. Contact your hardware and software suppliers or Internet service provider to ensure you have the latest in security updates.

If you have a security concern about you online accounts, contact your bank to discuss possible problems and remedies.

  • Remember that nonfinancial Web sites that are linked to your bank's site are not FDIC-insured.

As an added convenience to their customers, some banks offer online links to merchants, retail stores, travel agents and other nonfinancial sites. An outside company's products and service are not insured by the FDIC, and your bank may not guarantee the products and services.

As in everyday business, before you order a product or service online, make sure you are comfortable with the reputation of the company making the offer. Only then should you give out your credit card or debit card number. And never give the number unless you initiated the transaction.



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