Bill Pay Safety: Online vs. Paper Checks

Electronic Payment Safety

Learn how electronic bill payment offers an added protection against identity theft and phishing.

The evolution of banking is upon us. More customers are transitioning towards online resources for banking, bill pay and overall money management. The most commonly asked question we hear revolves around safety and we’re here to set the record straight.

Using electronic payments is  as safe, if not safer, than using a paper check. In fact, there’s federal protection that supports the security we offer so you can be confident you won’t be a victim of identity theft when purchasing via online transactions.

First, let’s look at the information that comes in your checkbook. Typically, the identifying information from an empty check can range from just your name and address to driver’s license number, bank routing number and account number. A completed check will also have your signature attached. Though it is illegal to sift through mail, last year, over 9.9 million people were victims of identity theft through mail. Of course, there are identity theft measures to cover traditional check fraud but the information is easier to access via mailbox.

Online bill pay and electronic transactions are almost always more secure than sending paper checks. Electronic payments through trusted sites are covered by high-end encryption, which may be identified by a closed padlock or a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate displayed on the website. Another sign of security is a web address that starts with https://www. Other URL protocols could indicate an untrustworthy site. All trusted banking websites should prominently display the FDIC seal as well. If you are at all questioning the security validity of a site, do not perform a transaction.

Ensuring your transaction is secured after you hit “OK” is half the battle. There is no substitute for attention to detail when you’re looking at bank account maintenance. How are you protected when you think there’s been a breach involving an online transaction?

What happens if fraud occurs against your account? The federal Electronic Funds Transfer Act covers electronic payment validity and security. Each bank may have different standards but the general protocol requires you to dispute the error with your bank within 60 days from the time you receive your statement. Once the bank is notified, it has 10 business days to investigate the claim for an error. If the bank does not come to a resolution within that period, they will refund your account at least a portion of the disputed amount and will continue investigating for 45 days.

Wise Tips for Online Money Security and Safety

  1. Do not bank on a public computer
  2. Update your anti-virus and spyware protection on your home computer
  3. When banking or making purchases via mobile devices, do not use a public wireless network. Use your data plan or wait until you’re using your secured home network
  4. Never store all of your passwords on a document on your computer
  5. Change your PIN and bank account password(s) often

If you would like more information on security of online banking through FNB Fox Valley, come in to your nearest branch and speak with a personal banker today.