It’s official. With about one-third of the population doing their financial transactions online, online banking has undoubtedly joined the mainstream.
The widespread popularity of the internet, the growing usage of smart phones which are essential for more advanced banking transactions, and the ability to manage finances online with the onset of money management tools have contributed to the unprecedented rise of online banking, incorporating itself into the consciousness and lifestyle of the average consumer. Online banking: the facts, the figures, and the trends
A survey conducted in late 2008 revealed that about 71 million adults in the US or about a third of the adult population have ditched traditional banking and instead, do their banking transactions online. In addition, the number of people using mobile banking services in the country jumped to 3.1 million in 2008 from just 400,000 in 2007.
A profiling of this online-banking generation further showed that these individuals were younger and belonged to the higher-income brackets. ATM usage was also listed high up on the other banking activities that they made. In the next two years, the demand for and usage of electronic financial systems particularly online bills payments, alerts, online personal finance management tools, and the like, will definitely rise, keeping up with the age of convenience and quick, instant transactions, even in money matters.
Phishers take advantage of bank mergers
On the downside, hackers are taking advantage of the upsurge in the online banking use and the credit crunch.
Phishing, which is one of the most common methods of online fraud, is typically carried out by sending emails to unsuspecting individuals, luring them to reveal their account information and log-in details. Because the look and feel of the “bank website” given (usually reached by clicking on a link in the email), as well as the purported communication is authentic-sounding, many gullible consumers are sucked into the trap. Further giving opportunity to these phishers and confusing the banking consumers, were the bank mergers that took place in the third quarter of last year. Ordinary people who don’t follow the news closely have lost track of which bank owns which. As a result, when they receive “welcome” emails supposedly from the acquiring banks, asking them to give out their personal information and account details to “activate them in the new system”, they believe this is a legitimate bank transaction.
How not to get hooked by phishers
In the light of these developments (both good and bad), consumers need to be better informed and protected of these scams. Here are a few precautionary steps that individuals who regularly transact online can do:
Pay close attention to the message. If the message sounds like something that may cause you to panic like an overdraft or suspicious account activity, then it probably was meant to send you into just that mode so you will readily divulge information.
Verify the email address and the link. Most urls of official bank sites would be just the name of the bank and not some web address made up of a lot of numbers.
Look for details that somehow don’t seem right. If the site looks like that of a bank with a poor web design, or if the message doesn’t sound professional enough, chances are, some questionable individuals are merely trying to “phish” you.
When in doubt, simply call the financial institution in question. As much as possible, do not use the phone number given in the email as that could lead you to a phony bank representative as well.