Personal Finance: Organize, Manage, Research, and Invest Online
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It's possible to conduct all your normal bank business from your own computer, 24 hours a day. Online banking allows you to pay all your bills electronically-and securely-with just a few mouse clicks. Before you begin banking online, do some research so you understand the process. Then, once you feel comfortable, explore all the online banking options.
- So many banks currently offer services online that you can begin online banking by going to your own bank's Web site and registering for an online account that will link to your existing bank accounts. Your bank's site probably provides FAQs and tutorials to familiarize you with their online services.
- Because Internet-only banks have low or no overhead, they are able to offer savings accounts with higher interest rates than most real-world banks. For similar reasons, some regular banks offer Internet-only savings accounts with higher interest rates than their standard accounts. Even if you're not comfortable doing serious banking online, you may want consider setting up one of these higher-interest savings account on the Internet.
- Make sure that any Internet bank you join is a member of the FDIC.
- Anyone who does online banking, or makes any financial transactions online should be aware of "phishing" schemes. Phishing is a type of e-mail scam where third parties attempt to fraudulently acquire private information from Web users, such as credit card details, social security numbers, and account numbers. Generally you'll receive an e-mail telling you that your bank account (or eBay or PayPal account) has been suspended and/or needs updating. Provided in the email is a link to a login page where you can access and fix your account. After clicking this link, the page you're directed to, although cunningly designed to approximate the real thing, is fake. So by entering your username and password, you're not logging on, but actually providing the phishers with your account information, and putting them in a position to access your account and steal your information. The FTC has more information on phishing, including how to avoid it. If an e-mail seems fishy (no pun intended), always close the browser window and log into an account directly. Just because the URL looks right doesn't mean it is.
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