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How to practice safe computing

As the world advances in technology, fraudsters are also advancing and becoming more clever.  These criminals continue to explore new ways to deceive people in the online world as they look for their next victim.  While online banking is widely considered to be as safe as or safer than in-branch or ATM banking, as a general rule you should be careful about giving out your personal financial information over the Internet. Remember, no reputable financial institution will ever request your personal information via e-mail.

To enjoy a secure experience, the following safety tips for Online Banking are being offered:

1. Tips on safe computing practices when conducting your online banking at home, or at a public computer:
Never leave the computer unattended once you have signed in to online banking.
After completing your transactions, ensure that you log out of online banking, clear your browser cache by deleting temporary Internet files, and close your browser. Often, it is easy to forget to sign out of an online banking session.   
Do not save your bank account number, card number, or password on a publicly accessed or shared computer.
Watch out for over-the-shoulder snoops.

2. Keep your password confidential.  The password acts like a key to your online banking account. Sharing passwords places your financial information and privacy at risk. Keep the answers to your security questions confidential as well.

3. When selecting a password, choose a series of characters that cannot be easily guessed by anyone else. The best passwords are made up of an alpha-numeric combination that’s more than six characters long and a combination of capital and lower case letters. Don’t use a password you use for any other service; your name or a close relative’s name; your birth date, telephone number or address or those of a close relative; your bank account number or credit card number. In addition, do not store your password in the computer.

4. Be suspicious of any e-mail with urgent requests for personal financial information. Phishers have been known to include upsetting or enticing (but false) statements in their e-mails to get people to react immediately. More recently, some phishers have toned down their language, as e-mail recipients have become more aware of the use of this tactic. Either way, the e-mail typically asks for information such as user names, passwords, credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, etc.

5. Be careful of e-mails that are not personalized and/or may contain spelling errors and/or awkward syntax and phrasing. Many phishing e-mails are sent in great bulk and, therefore, are not personalized. If you are suspicious of an e-mail claiming to be from your institution that is not personalized, call your institution before responding. Many also are being sent from other countries from individuals for whom English is a foreign language, thus resulting in misspelled words and awkward syntax and phrasing.

6. Be careful of personalized e-mails that ask for personal financial information. Be suspicious of any e-mail that contains some personal financial information, such as a bank account number and asks for other information, such as a PIN. Your bank will never ask for or send you personal financial information by e-mail.

7. Do not use links in e-mail to get to any Web page. Instead, call the bank on the telephone to confirm the address, or log onto the Web site directly by typing in the Web address in your browser.

8. Do not complete forms in e-mail messages that ask for personal financial information. Your financial institution would never ask for you to complete such a form within an e-mail message.

9. Only communicate information, such as credit card numbers or account information, via a secure Web site or the telephone. When submitting financial information to a Web site, look for the padlock or key icon at the bottom of your browser, and make sure the Internet address begins with “https.” A Secure Web server designation can be found by checking the beginning of the Web address in your browser’s address bar – the address should begin “https://...” Rather than just “http://...” While you can not be completely sure that a Web site is secure when its address starts with “https,” you can be sure the Web site is not secure when it does not start with “https.”

10. Regularly log on to your online accounts and check your bank, credit and debit card statements to ensure that all transactions are legitimate. One of the real advantages of banking online is being able to regularly review your account for unauthorized or unusual activity. If anything is suspicious, contact your bank and all card issuers immediately.

11. Ensure that your browser is up to date and security patches applied. Always visit your browser’s home page to download the latest security updates even if they don’t alert you to do so.

12. Make use of anti-virus protection software. They protect your personal information in your computer from being lost due to virus. Keep the virus definitions up-to-date.  Your anti-virus software should include protection from spyware and malware.