Use a Secure Computer
Make sure your computer meets the RIT Desktop & Portable Computer Standard before getting online. In addition to up-to-date anti-virus, make sure that your operating system and your web browser have the latest security patches installed.
Don't use public computers to send private information over the Internet. You cannot be sure what security measures are in place and other people may have altered settings or installed malware without your knowledge.
Research the Company/Website
Investigate any bank or retailer you are considering using. How trustworthy are they?
Use the FDIC Bank Find page to make sure the bank is insured by the FDIC.
Plug the website name into a search engine. What kinds of consumer reviews are returned?
If you're shopping at an auction site, check out the seller's feedback. Have other people had good experiences with them? What forms of payment will they accept?
Research the Product/Service
Learn more about the product or service you are considering. Are you getting exactly what you want? Look for fine print-are there hidden fees or terms?
Are the prices too good to be true? Insane deals are sometimes used to disguise malicious links. They may also be an indication that the product is actually a counterfeit.
What is the seller's return/exchange policy? Do they cover damaged goods?
What is the bank's policy on fraud? How much protection do they offer? Will they reimburse fraudulent transactions?
What about shipping costs? Is there a minimum purchase amount? Tip: If you're making several purchases, try to combine them on the same order when possible. Not only does it reduce the number of transactions you have to make, but you might save a bundle on shipping costs too!
Use Strong Passwords
Use a strong, unique password or pass phrase where allowed. See our recommendations for creating strong passwords. Most online banks (and some retail websites) offer an additional layer of security such as:
Using an on-screen keyboard to enter in passwords (this protects against keyloggers).
Requiring an additional password or personal identification number.
Requiring you to answer a challenge-response question each time you login (e.g., what is your grandmother's maiden name?).
Smart cards or tokens that generate a single-use password (meaning you cannot access your account without this physical device).
Select an online banking service that uses one of the above methods or some other type of additional security protection.
Make Sure the Website Uses Encryption
When you're ready to submit your information, look for the following indicators that the website is secure:
The address bar should begin with either shttp or https (not just "http") and there must be a padlock in your web browser (the location varies by browser, it usually appears in the address bar or the status bar at the bottom).
Never submit your login information by e-mail. Scammers go to great lengths to make e-mails appear genuine, but no legitimate bank or retailer will ever ask you to submit private information by e-mail.
Use a Secure Payment Method
When shopping through an online retailer or through an auction site, make sure you use a secure payment method.
Credit cards are one of the safer options. Federal law limits your liability in the event of credit card fraud to only $50. MasterCard and Visa also offer zero liability for most debit card transactions as well.
See if your bank or credit card issuer offers one-time use or "virtual" card numbers. These are card numbers that you can sign up for and activate for a limited time period. They still link to your regular card/account, however the number is completely different. This means your active account number doesn't have to be transmitted over the Internet at all.
Never give out a bank account number to anyone, and be wary of anyone who insists upon cash or wire transfer only.
Monitor Your Accounts
Keep track of all your purchases/account history from start to finish and beyond.
Print out all your orders and receipts, as well as e-mail confirmations and product descriptions. If possible, request that your bank mail you a monthly account statement and compare it to your online statements.
Follow up your purchases by closely watching your bank account and/or credit card statements to monitor for any unauthorized transactions.
You may also want to check your credit report annually (check for free at www.annualcreditreport.com).
Problems and Complaints
Online Banking Complaints
There are several different organizations that regulate financial institutions in the United States. The links below provide additional information on safe online banking as well as instructions for filing a complaint:
FDIC - Safe Internet Banking
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission - Online Brokerage Accounts: What You Can Do to Safeguard Your Money and Your Personal Information
New York Fed - Tips for Safe Banking Over the Internet
Online Shopping Complaints
If you think you have been a victim of online shopping fraud and/or cannot resolve a problem with the seller, contact the following agencies:
Better Business Bureau
Online Shopping Tips
- FDIC Bank Find