Tips to keep money safe

Online banking

Let’s start with online banking, since that’s where the problems are growing fastest.

Online banking certainly provides great convenience ‘ and can save you a lot of time.

Online banking lets you check your balances, transfer money between accounts, and pay bills.

However, you need to be vigilant and protect your online bank account.

Here are some tips on how you can protect your bank account and keep it safe from theft:


Log in to your account on a regular basis, even if you don’t have any transactions to do.

Simply take a look. It only takes a moment to review your information so that you know what’s going on ‘ and to make sure nothing is wrong.

Action: If you do discover a problem or a discrepancy, contact your bank immediately.


Don’t be tempted to do your online banking in the library or the local Internet cafe.

You have no way of knowing who has access to that information ‘ or how they’ll treat it.

Plus, there may be keystroke loggers on the computer, which make it very easy for a thief to steal your private information.

(A keystroke logger is a hardware device or software program that monitors each keystroke a user types on the keyboard. This information can then easily be transmitted to the scammer, who then can have access to user names, passwords, and other confidential information.)

Action: Never use public computers for transactions that involve private information.


Don’t ever try to access your account through an emailed link ‘ no matter how much that email looks like it came from your bank.

These kinds of emails that request you to log into your bank account are most likely ‘phishing’ scams.

Plus, don’t give out any personal information if someone who claims to be from your bank contacts you, by email or by phone.

Action: The best way to be reasonably sure that you really are dealing with your financial institute is to always initiate the contact yourself.


When you visit the bank’s site, make sure that the page where you type your info always starts with https: The ‘s’ means that the URL is on a secure server.

Action: Never type confidential information or passwords into a non-secure page.


And don’t tell anyone what it is, or allow anyone else to use it. Even people you trust should not have access to your online banking password.

Action: Change your password at least once a quarter. If you suspect there may be a problem, immediately change your password and call your bank.


If you are doing online banking, your computer should have the following software installed:

l A firewall. Firewalls ‘block the door’ to your computer so ‘hackers’ can’t access the information on your hard drive.

l Spyware blockers. Spyware is any programme that secretly downloads onto your system when you access the Internet, often through pop-up ads or attachments.

The software gathers information about you from your computer and sends it to ‘third parties’ ‘ who could be scammers who will steal your money.

l Anti-Virus software. Scammers sometimes send virus ‘trojan horse’ programmes by email, and anti-virus software installed on your system can stop these. Action: Install a good firewall, spyware blocking software, and updated anti-virus software program.

Action: Report all problems and suspicious activity immediately.

Offline Banking

There are lots of ways that thieves can gain access to your bank account info offline as well.

Here are a few precautions for you to take:

l As with online banking, pay attention.

Don’t just get your bank statement and toss it on the ‘to-do’ pile on your desk.

Your to-do pile is probably way too big, and it might be days before you get around to opening that envelope.

You can’t spot a problem if you’re not paying attention ‘ and if you don’t spot an existing problem, it could cost you a great deal.

Action: Read your bank statements as soon as you get them.

l Be very careful with your ATM card.

Don’t lend your ATM card to anyone or share your password. And never write your PIN number on your ATM card or have it anywhere near your ATM card (in the event that your wallet gets stolen).

l Shield your transactions when you use your ATM card so no one can see what you are keying in.

l Check to make sure that no hardware devices have been added to an ATM machine you’re using.

These devices, called ‘Skimmer’ devices, can record the info from the magnetic strip on your ATM card along with your PIN number.

They take less than 15 seconds for the scammer to install and uninstall them.

Some Skimmer devices are installed over the keypad on an ATM machine ‘ and may include warnings, supposedly from the bank, about how this equipment is being tested.

If you see anything like this, do NOT use the ATM machine.

l Shred old and unused checks, as well as any unwanted paper that has your bank account number on it.

l Never give anyone a signed blank check.If you do find a fraudulent transaction, report it to your bank immediately.

Your bank is required to refund your money as long as you notify the bank within 60 days of receiving your statement. However, the sooner you begin the process, the faster action can be taken to stop the fraud.

If you follow these suggestions, there are no guarantees (since these folks are very, very clever), but you will have a very good chance of keeping your bank account safe from scammers and thieves.


July 2006
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