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As life picks up pace and society adapts to the lifestyle , we increasingly look to our computers to simplify life. One of the increasingly popular services people are increasingly accessing on-line is Internet banking. Not only can it be time saving, but it is invariably very convenient. For people like myself that have problems getting out and about to shops sometimes, it offers a unique and invaluable service, where I can shop online and pay using my Internet bank account or plastic.
Wether you are using specialized Internet banking accounts or an account based in the high street, the services are handy and generally well policed to help prevent fraud.
The banking providers are invariably using secure servers and going to great legnths to protect the safety of transactions. Whilst not fool proof, they do offer a good measure of security agruably more security than is available for high street banking on standard accounts. So does all this mean we should feel safe and secure? Perhaps it should , but unfortunately this protection grinds towards a halt when it comes to people obtaining our banking details via more obscure measures.
A highly secure server is great when you are inputting your details at a payment site or on the banks own web site, but what happens regarding the information you may store on you computer or when you are not on an official site? To be frank...not a lot! When it comes to you banking details you are responsible for keeping them safe. Your home computer may seem safe and sound, after all it's only you and your husband that get to use it! Hmm, so what about the thousands of less than honest people out there that spend hours each day hacking into computers? If you store your account number, pin numbers, sort codes and personal details anywhere on your computer they are very vaunerable. What may seam like an impossible feat,hacking into your computer is in actual fact very easy especially if you do not take software or hardware precautions. Once inside your computer just about all information is accessible.
There are basic and sensible precautions you can take to minimize the risk, such as installing a firewall program. Ones such as Black-ice defender, Norton personal firewall and Zone alarm are but a few. Some are free and some are inexpensive. They work by asking your computer permission before allowing any data or information in or out of your computer via the Internet. These programs are not infallible by any stretch of the imagination but they do make life for the hacker very difficult and make you a less easy target. Hardware firewalls are available too, either as dedicated firewalls or encapsulated into routers. Dedicated firewalls are immensely expensive, but routers are an affordable otion that offer slightly higher protection that their software counterparts. The biggest downfall for the hardware option is that fact that involves quite a bit of technical know-how to use it properly.
Another very important precaution is simply not to keep any important data on your computer. There are a couple of software programs that can keep you documents safe and inaccessable, such as "Safe", the problem with these is that an exceptionally good one is needed and if you forget a password then you data is locked away forever even from you.
The most worrying aspect of on-line banking security, to mind is the concept of misleading, fraudulent emails. There are number of ways in which they present themselves. I myself have received two different types of these. the first type being of a nature where a company will inform you that an amount is to be deducted from your account or credit/debit card for a purchase(that you haven't ordered) unless you reply to the email with your card/account details within 7 days. It might seem obvious that it's an attempt to fraudulently obtain your details, but it is surprising how many people read it, panic thinking they are about to be charged for something they do not want and do indeed email by return their details. The saddest part if this scam is that as you have provided your details ,it is unlikely that the bank will accept any responsibility for the fraud.
The second experiance I have had has been in the form of an email from the bank itself ,well at least apparently from them. It will include a link to their site and inform you that you need to update your account details otherwise your account will be suspended. The link address (URL) will be very similar to your banks own and the web page that it brings up will look almost identical to your banks home page. I was immediately suspicous as I don't bank with the bank that mailed me. i became incresingly allarmed as I saw the details it wished me to input (card/account numbers). All banks will have inlcuded in their small print that they will NEVER ask you for such deatils online. Your password and username/number or email adress is the most they will ever request you to input on their own pages. Again if you are unfortunate enough to fall pray to this scam the bank is very umlikely to accept any responsability for funds that are lost.
I have recieved such mails from Barclays and Natwest. On both occasions I immediately forwarded the emails along with my concerns to the banks "proper" website. I quickly recieved replies noting the mails and assuring me of their concerns. Since then I have recieved more of similar emails and note that some bank websites do not have a contact facility for such an event but do have a support page. the general policy adopted by the banks is that recievers of such mails should contact their ISP (internet service providers e.g NTL,AOL,TASCALI etc) and inform them. They should then investigate it further.
Banks do seem concerned about this type of fraud, they do have strict guidelines about storing your information and they will state that they NEVER ask you to input such information on-line. However, this basically means the buck stops at your own door and they are not adressing the problem. I feel the situation will grow much worse and that many vaunerable people are going to be duped into losing money. Common sense will prevent some people from falling prey, but the tactics can fool even the most carefull of users.
If you use internet banking, be vigual, be carefull and read all the banks policies and gyuidelines before starting your on-line banking life.
* * * Thankyou for reading * * *
I think the banks must have been reading my review (or my mind) as I visited a web site today and got the following pop-up """"IMPORTANT NOTICE
You may have seen reports recently relating to the use of bogus emails, encouraging bank customers to visit a website where card or internet security details are requested.
HFC Bank Limited (providers of your Beneficial Credit Card) treat security threats very seriously and given these recent attacks on UK banks we remain vigilant.
Please note HFC Bank Limited would never send emails that ask you for confidential or personal security information.
If you have already received, or receive such an email in the future, please delete it immediately without responding or visiting any site you are directed to.
If at anytime you are concerned about the validity of a Beneficial email or website, please call our Customer Services department on 0870 240 0990. """"
Couldn't agree more. At least most software operating systems have a firewall turned on as standard now, but still a good virus / spyware system will weed out most of the rubbish. Data is always a problem and ever more shall be - Amen