Keep your PC safe, and antivirus up to date!

Imagine logging in to your online banking account and discovering that your accounts have been emptied! Not a cent left.

Now imagine phoning your bank and being told that there may be little they can do to recover your money, as it has been transferred to a foreign bank in what looked to be a legitimate transaction.

How could this happen? Perhaps your password was stolen by fraudsters using a virus to install keytracker software on your computer. Maybe this is an extreme example, but it is a very real threat and it's better to be prepared rather than to be pleading with your bank to have your stolen funds returned.

Anti-virus software to the rescue

Anti-virus software helps to protect you by preventing malicious programs (malware) from infecting your computer, and by detecting and removing such malware if it does make it onto your PC.

Although technically a subset of malware, the term virus is often used to refer to myriad types of malware such as viruses, worms, trojan horses and spyware, among others.

Having current antivirus software active on your computer is essential if you're going to be using that computer to engage in online banking.

Anti-virus tips

Stick to known brands - there are many good virus checkers out there, but also some fakes. Check with your local computer store if you're unsure about whether an antivirus programme is trustworthy. Some well-known antivirus products are:

  • Norton AntiVirus
  • McAfee VirusScan
  • Kaspersky Anti-Virus
  • AVG

Be sure to keep your anti virus software up-to-date. There are many new viruses created every day so it's vital that you keep your defenses current and strong.

Schedule your computer to do an automatic virus scan at least once a week. If a threat is missed first-time-round then hopefully it will be picked up and deactivated during your weekly virus scan.

Make sure your antivirus software is always loaded and running on your PC! It should be fine to do a full-system scan just once a week, but your antivirus software must always be running in the background in order to detect new threats when they first arrive on your computer. Using Microsoft Windows you should see a little icon near the bottom right-hand corner of your screen to indicate that the antivirus software is running.

Further protection is also required, by means of a computer firewall. A firewall is hardware or software that aims to stop malicious attacks before they even reach your web browser (or before even reaching your computer in the case of hardware firewalls). Most of the top antivirus software bundles in firewall software as a premium option.

Be pro-active. Keep your computer secure for safe online banking!

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10 ways that online banking can save you money

Other than the shear convienience of banking from the comfort of your home, here are 10 great ways that online banking can help you save money and maximise your savings:

  1. Low/no fees
  2. Earn higher interest
  3. Keep track of your account balance
  4. Set up bill payments in advance
  5. No queueing
  6. Maximise your interest
  7. Multiple savings accounts
  8. Keep a tight leash on your funds
  9. Diversify your investments
  10. Export and graph your transactions

Low/no fees

Most banks offer lower fees for online transactions than for writing cheques or doing your banking at the local branch. Online banks and special online accounts can go a step further, with no fees on some types of transactions.

Earn higher interest

Special online-only accounts generally offer higher interest rates than general purpose accounts.

Keep track of your account balance

The ability to log in and view up-to-date information on your bank accounts makes it easier to keep track of your expenses to ensure you don't accidentally send your account into the red (incurring high overdraft fees)

Set up bill payments in advance

Internet banking allows you to set up your bill payments in advance with payment at a future date - if you do this as soon as you receive a bill then there's no chance of missing a payment and being charged penalty interest.

No queueing

You know the old saying, time is money. By doing your banking online you don't have to spend time travelling to your local bank and queueing up for a teller. You've saved yourself time and also a little petrol money.

Maximise your interest

Keep most of your money in an online savings account and transfer over the amounts needed to pay bills just a day or two before the cash is needed. This allows you to earn high interest only nearly every dollar you own.

* this only works for banks that allow free online transfers between accounts, and be careful not to miss the transfer, else you could be hit by unauthorised overdraft fees.

* also, some banks calculate interest on the *minimum* monthly balance, so this wont earn you any extra interest on such accounts. Look for accounts that calculate interest daily.

Multiple savings accounts

Set up multiple savings accounts (with low/no fees) for different savings goals and transfer money into them each month on payday. This makes it easier to meet your savings goals and to ensure you have money for big purchases when you need it.

Keep a tight leash on your funds

Keep a low balance in your day-to-day account and put the rest of your money in an online-only account at a different bank. Without a cash card on the online account you wont be able to use it for spontaneous purchases and the low balance on your daily account will ensure you're careful to control your expenses.

Diversify your investments

By signing up for online banking combined with an online investment account you'll have an easy time diversifying your investments into funds and shares. Over the longer term this should allow you to earn a higher return on your investments.

Export and graph your transactions

Export your account transactions into cashbook software or excel and graph your expenditures to see clearly how much you spend and where you could save more. Pie charts present an amazingly clear picture where you spend your money.

We're sure there are many other advantages of online banking but this list of 10 money saving tips is a great start. Use online banking and take control of your finances!

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Password safety for online banking

Passwords, they're the first line of defense in protecting your online bank accounts from unauthorised access. But as important as they are, passwords are often given lax treatment by the average internet user, putting online bank accounts at risk!

Keep your accounts safe - follow these key password tips for an enhanced level of security:

Choose a secure password

Insecure passwords are the easiest way for baddies to access your accounts!

  • Try to use a combination of lower- and upper-case letters, numbers, and special characters like ! # or *
  • Ensure your password is at least 6 characters long, ideally it should be over 8 characters long

* Don't use your spouse's name or child's birthday! These things are just too easy to work out.

Change your password regularly

Ok, not so regularly that you're always forgetting your current password... But at least try to change your password once every couple of months.

Why? Hackers can try to break into your account by using automatic scripts that try out many combinations of passwords. Banks have systems in place to try and minimise this, but the longer you leave your password unchanged, the higher the possibility that your account is compromised. Also, if you've used the same password for your other online activities (don't!) then there's also a chance that once of those less-secure systems gets hacked, giving the bad guys the ideal starting point in trying to break into your internet bank accounts.

Don't use the same password as you use on other websites

Yes we know, you have so many online identities these days that it's inpractical to have a separate password for each one. But your online bank accounts aren't just any old site - they hold your money and deserve better protection than say your blog or facebook page (maybe some of you will argue otherwise...)

Even if you do share passwords between different online accounts, at least ensure that your internet banking accounts are protected with a distinct, secure password!

Don't save passwords in your internet browser

Modern internet browsers have plenty of tools and nice features to aid you in your web browsing. One of these features is the ability to "remember passwords". What a great feature - you'll no longer have to worry about remembering all of those pesky passwords! Wrong! Please don't let your browser remember the password to your internet banking account - it's just way too insecure. In fact it's sort of like having the ATM remember the PIN to your cash card...

Don't save passwords in email or on your computer

We know that it's hard to remember all of your passwords but online banking passwords deserve special treatment. All it takes is one little virus or security breach and your password could be exposed to the world.

If you just can't remember your online banking password then write it down - not on your computer, but on a piece of paper - and keep that piece of paper somewhere safe away from the computer and away from prying eyes!

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Online banking safety tips

It's your bank's responsibility to keep their online banking system safe and secure but it's your responsibility to protect and access your online accounts in a secure manner.

Here are some essential online banking safety tips:

Keep those passwords strong and safe!

Secure passwords are such an important aspect of internet banking that we've written a special section about them: Password safety tips for online banking.

Never click links in "banking" emails

It's not uncommon to receive emails purporting to be from your bank

Banks sometimes do send out legitimite emails but the best approach is to be cautious - play it safe and treat all banking emails as suspicious.

The best way to access your online bank accounts is to always access online banking by entering the web address directly into the web browser, and check what you're typing!

Always check the url of the site you are accessing

Some bad sites try to disguise themselves as the real site - and some of them do a very good job of it. These phishing sites as they're called generally aim to capture your login credentials or personal details so that bad guys can log in to your account.

As mentioned above, always be sure that you're accessing the website that you think you are - i.e. check that the web address is that of your real online bank account.

Ensure you have anti-virus and firewall software installed

If you don't know what these things are, then find out now or get some help!

If viruses and other malicious software are able to access your computer then they can do all manner of evil things like capturing your password, or installing key-tapper software that records everything you type into your computer, including new passwords whenever you change them. Take a pro-active role in preventing such software from making it onto your computer.

It's not enough to have anti virus software installed, you also need to ensure that it's up-to-date!

Avoid using online banking in internet cafes

When you're using a public computer you have no way of knowing what software is installed - the PC could be riddled with viruses and other bad stuff as mentioned above.

Keep your online bank accounts safe and avoid accessing them from public computers wherever possible. If you're going travelling then consider having multiple bank accounts (with multiple banks) and use only one of them when on the road - keep a low balance in it without any overdraft facililty and set up an automatic payment from your other "secure" account to your travelling account to top up your funds each week.

Avoid online banking in public-access wifi-spots

The similar thing applies here as to using internet cafes - though your computer may be safe, the information sent over the public wi-fi network could be intercepted and used to break into your account. There's a lower chance of this happening for encrypted networks, but remain cautious if you don't trust the network (change your password as soon as you get home!)

Follow general security precautions

  • don't tell people your password
  • don't write your password down (or if you do, don't keep it by your computer)
  • don't leave your computer unattended at work while logged in to internet banking
  • I think you get the drift...

This is list is not exhaustive! Take care in your online activities and play your part in keeping your online bank accounts secure.

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