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How to stay safe while banking online

Kristin Chessman is a freelance writer, editor and mom from Southern California with a passion for travel, fashion, Disney, the beach, Italian food and all-things celebrity. Follow Kristin on Twitter @KristinChessman.

Bank with caution

Online banking used to be a mysterious, ominous frontier, but it has become the norm today. In fact, consumers are sharing more information online than ever before. However, with convenience comes unfortunate consequences, like identity theft. Keep your identity and cash secure by practicing these tips for safe online banking.

Woman banking online

1Keep your PC safe

Safe online banking starts with your computer. The experts at Webroot recommend installing antivirus and anti-spyware protection. Plus, don't forget to automate anti-malware software updates so your PC detects the latest threats.

2Check out the financial institution

Do your homework before banking with any financial institutions online. Tami Nealy, director of corporate communications at LifeLock, suggests searching the banks' "about us" or "contact us" web page to find the street address, phone number, and other information. "Then, check the Better Business Bureau to make sure there are no, or very few, legitimate complaints filed against the companys' website link and address."

3Look for secure websites

According to Nealy, it's important to ensure your bank uses a secure website. How can you tell? Simply look for "https" in the URL. "When you log in to your banking account area, you should be in a safe zone or web page granting you secure access, beginning with 'https' instead of just 'http,'" Nealy says.

4Log in from your browser

When you first register for online banking, you'll be prompted to click a confirmation link inside a reply e-mail. Watch for it, and respond accordingly. Afterwards, always log in to the site from your browser, not from e-mail links. "Too many thieves and unscrupulous people pose as financial entities in fake e-mails, inviting you to click their links and submit your access information. Then, they log in to the real banking site and steal your identity and funds," she explains. When in doubt, call the bank directly from the number on their site or other documentation you have on file.

5Keep track of transactions

Protect yourself and your online transactions by printing out confirmation numbers or writing them in your checkbook for safe keeping. "That way, if a payment doesn't post, you'll have a reference number to give customer service so they can find out what happened," Nealy says.

6Check your statements regularly

Nealy advises getting into the habit of checking your statements on a regular basis (daily, weekly, or monthly) to make sure you actually made all of the charges; be sure to question any charges that don't match your records.

7Beware of online phishing scams

Your bank sends you an e-mail asking for your Social Security number. Should you send it? Absolutely not! Though this may look like an e-mail from your banking institution, it's actually from a scammer hoping to catch you in a weak moment. "Banks will never call, e-mail, or send you a letter asking you to reply and provide your Social Security number," Nealy says.

What you saidTell us: Do you do most of your banking online? Why or why not? Share your feedback in the comments section below!

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