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October 27, 2008

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Online security tips

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation offers a few additional tips on consumer banking protection:

¢ Check the banks' "About Us" site to ensure you have the official name and address of the bank's headquarters and information about its insurance coverage from the FDIC. A similarly named overseas bank probably won't offer the same local services and protection.

¢ Likewise, "copycat" Web sites that use a similar name or Web link may try to lure you into clicking onto their 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.

¢ You also can check a bank's FDIC deposit insurance coverage (up to $100,000) by visiting www2.fdic.gov-/idasp/main_bankfind.asp.

When Asa Collier goes online, he isn't just looking for e-mails and searching the Internet.

The Lawrence resident also checks his personal and business bank accounts several times a day since signing up for online banking about a year ago.

"If you are the paranoid type, this is terrific," says Collier, owner of Blue Sky Wind Solar & Home.

About 46 million households currently bank online, according to Celent, a research and consulting firm focused on the application of information technology in the global financial services industry.

Convenience is what Jennifer Smith likes about the services. Paying bills over the computer by transferring funds from her bank account is easy, she says. No longer does she have to go to the post office to buy stamps and rely on the mail to get her checks delivered on time.

Smith has been going online to balance her checking account for five years. A year ago she decided to upgrade to bill paying. She started with online accounts when she started using a debit card.

"Instead of making sure I wrote down every transaction, I could actually download them into my accounting program, and then I knew exactly what had gone through," the Lecompton woman says.

Smith is aware of online security concerns, and she changes her passwords every few months. She complicates the passwords with combinations of upper- and lowercase letters and numbers.

"I feel more comfortable going through my bank than going onto other companies' Web sites and making payments," Smith said.

Collier thinks that being able to check his accounts anytime he wants is a form of security in itself.

"I've been able to detect some screwy stuff. I've found missed transactions immediately rather than later," he says, adding that he has no complaints with the online service or his bank.

Online security must be taken seriously, says Robert Baker, counselor with Housing and Credit Counseling Inc., 2518 Ridge Court. Fraud or stealing account numbers can happen many ways.

"Unless you are constantly upgrading and testing your system every six months nothing is truly secure," he says. "You can't just put up a firewall and just leave it."

Consumers should study online banking service details closely before signing up. There can be various charges for online payment transactions, he says.

"You need to know how these things work," Baker says.

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