This article is focused on safe practices for online banking “transactions”, so that’s what I intend to focus upon rather than the safety considerations that apply for the overall usage of online banking. For those who want more information on the safety and security measures that should be used when setting up and logging into online banking, then check out the separate Helium article on “Ways to safeguard your online bank account”.
Having safely logged into online banking, there are a few further things that you need to do in order to undertake a safe transaction. By transaction, I will assume that we’re talking about the transfer of money to another person or company, or to an account that you hold externally with another bank.
Make sure you set the payee details up correctly:
Before you can make an online payment from your Internet banking session, you will need to enter certain details relating to the person or company that you wish to transfer the money to. You will typically be asked to enter the payee’s name, plus their sort code and account number, and you may have the opportunity to enter a reference note. It’s particularly important that you enter the sort code and account number details correctly so that the money will go to the right account.
Make sure you’ve entered the right amount:
It’s very easy to make a keying error when entering the amount you wish to pay. It would be disastrous, however, if you ended up typing in 1000 rather than 100 so always double check the amount you’ve entered before pressing the “Send” button.
Make sure you’ve entered the right payment day:
Similarly, make sure that you’ve entered the right payment date if you have the option of scheduling a future dated payment. It’s also important to be aware of any restrictions on processing times. For example, a payment might be delayed if the date you’ve selected happens to be a bank holiday.
Card reader validation of payment requests:
Making online payments represents one of the online banking transactions that is highest risk from a fraud perspective, as it is a potential way for a criminal to pay away funds if they have gained illegal access to a person’s online banking login. For this reason, many banks have introduced an extra security layer, which goes by the name of card reader verification.
You will already have had to enter your login passwords and passcodes to enter online banking but, when you then go to make a payment, you may also be asked to put your debit card into a card reader device that the bank will have supplied you with. You will follow online instructions which will prompt you to enter your card PIN into the card reader device and it will then display a one-off verification code that you will type into a field on the online banking payment screen. The reason why this approach adds to the security of online banking is that a fraudster will be thwarted unless they also happen to have stolen your debit card and know your card PIN.
Delete payees that you no longer need to make payments to:
It’s worth cleaning up your list of authorized payees from time to time, so that you don’t accidentally make a payment to a payee that you no longer need to deal with.
Check your online banking statement to make sure payments have gone through successfully:
Online banking is great and works very effectively, provided that you have entered the transaction details accurately. However, there is always the risk either of user input error or of a system error, so it’s good practice to check your online banking statement to make sure that the payment has gone through for the right amount, to the right person, and on the right day. This will give you peace of mind that the transaction has been successful and will enable you to liaise with the bank in the event of a problem.
Dispose securely of any documents that contain sensitive information:
Let’s say that you are arranging a payment to your brother and he wrote his sort code and account number details down on a bit of paper for you. It’s common sense to make sure that you shred that paper so that his bank details don’t end up falling into the hands of strangers.
Always follow the general online banking safety practices:
As well as the safety practices that apply when conducting a particular online banking transaction, it is of course vital to always follow the general online banking security protocols. These include making sure your computer is protected with a firewall and anti virus software, never disclosing your login credentials to anyone, and making sure that you log off at the end of each secure session.
Following these measures will help to keep you safe when using online banking to do online transactions. And whilst I’ve focused in this article on making a 3rd party payment, the same rules will apply if you are doing other transactions such as setting up standing orders or direct debits.