Posted: 2/1/2012 11:50
Tips to Safely Conduct Financial Transactions
Over the Internet
As use of the Internet continues to expand, more credit unions are using it to offer products and services or otherwise enhance communications with members.
The Internet offers the potential for safe, convenient new ways to shop for financial services and conduct credit union business, any day, any time. However, members need to make good on-line choices-decisions that may help avoid costly surprises or scams.
Read key information about the credit union posted on its Web site.
Most credit union Web sites have an "About Us" section or something similar. You may find a brief credit union history, its name and address, and information about its insurance coverage from NCUA.
Protect yourself from fraudulent Web sites.
For example, watch out for copycat Web sites that deliberately use a name or Web address very similar to, but not the same as, that of a real credit union. The intent is to lure you into clicking onto their Web site and give your personal information, such as your account number and password. Always check to see if you have typed the correct Web site address before conducting any business.
Check the credit union's insurance status and Web site address.
To check a credit union's insurance status, look for the familiar NCUA logo or the words "Insured by NCUA" on the Web site.
To independently verify a credit union's insurance status or Web site address, you can check NCUA's on-line database of credit unions. Go to NCUA's home page at http://www.ncua.gov and select "Credit Union Data" then "Individual Credit Union Data." From there enter the first letters of the credit union's name or the city and state and click the "Find" button. A positive match will display the credit union's information, including Web site address ("URL"), on the screen. The credit union type code also appears. This code indicates whether NCUA insures the accounts at the credit union. There are three different credit union types:
- Federal credit union (NCUA insured)
- Federally-insured State credit union (NCUA insured)
- Non-federally insured State credit union (not NCUA insured)
Please remember that not all credit unions operating on the Internet are insured by NCUA. Only federal credit unions and federally insured state-chartered credit unions are insured by NCUA. Check with your credit union or NCUA if you are not sure of your credit union's insurance status.
Know where to get more information about NCUA insurance.
If you or your family have less than $250,000 in all your accounts at the same NCUA-insured credit union, the entire amount is insured. If your accounts total $250,000 or more, find out if your total shares are within the insurance limit. The NCUA brochure "Your Insured Funds" can help you determine the insurable amount. You can obtain the brochure from your credit union, the appropriate NCUA Regional Office, or view it via a link in NCUA's Web site at Your Insured Funds.
Realize that not all financial services offered via a credit union's Web site are necessarily insured.
It is important to note that only shares offered by NCUA-insured credit unions are protected by NCUA. Non-insured investment and insurance products, such as mutual funds, stocks, annuities, and life insurance policies that may be sold through Web sites or at the credit union itself, are not NCUA-insured, are not guaranteed by the credit union, and may lose value.
Remember that non-financial Web sites that are linked to your credit union's site are not NCUA-insured.
As an added convenience to their members, some credit unions offer on-line links to other sites. An outside company's products and services are not insured by NCUA, and your credit union may not guarantee the products and services.
As in everyday business, before you order a product or service on-line, make sure you are comfortable with the reputation of the company making the offer. Only then should you give out your credit card or debit card number. Never give the number unless you initiated the transaction.
Protect Your Privacy
Some consumers may want to know how their personal information is used by their credit union and whether it is shared with credit union affiliates or other parties.
Since July 2001, credit unions are required to give members a copy of their privacy notice, regardless of whether you are conducting business on-line or off-line. This notice outlines the credit union's information sharing practices. Credit unions may want to share information about you to help market products to your specific needs and interests. If you do not wish to participate in information sharing, you have the right to prevent your credit union from sharing your private personal information with non-affiliated parties, except in certain limited circumstances. As of July 2001, your credit union should provide a clear method for you to "opt out" of this type of information sharing. Some credit unions post a copy of their privacy notice on their Web site.
Some organizations track your Web browsing habits while at their site, to understand your interests and then to market particular services or promotions. You may want to ask whether your credit union tracks your browsing habits if these practices concern you. Some credit union Web sites post an Internet privacy statement on their Web site describing such practices. By reviewing these practices, you can learn what information the credit union collects, and what information, if any, it shares with other organizations.
Your Web browser may enable you to block the ability of outside companies to track your browsing habits. Your credit union and your Internet service provider may have more information about how to protect your privacy on-line.
Keep Your Transactions Secure.
The Internet is a public network. Therefore, it is important to learn how to safeguard your credit union account information, credit card numbers, Social Security Number and other personal data.
Look at your credit union's Web site for information about its security practices, or contact your credit union directly.
Encryption is the process of scrambling private information to prevent unauthorized access. To show that your transmission is encrypted, some browsers display a small icon, usually in the lower right hand corner of your screen, that looks like a "lock" or a "key" whenever you conduct secure transactions on-line. Frequently e-mail is unsecured, even if you access it from a secured web page. Therefore, avoid sending sensitive information, such as account numbers, through e-mail unless added security measures are in place.
Passwords and/or personal identification numbers (PINs) should be used when accessing an account on-line. Your password should be unique to you and you should change it regularly. Do not use birth dates, Social Security Number, or other numbers or words that may be easy for others to guess. Be careful who you give your password to. For example, if you use a financial service that requires you to provide your password in order to gather and display your financial data in a consolidated format from various on-line sources, make sure you learn about the company's privacy and security practices.
General security over your personal computer such as virus protection and logical access controls (i.e., passwords) should be used and updated regularly. Contact your hardware and software suppliers or Internet service provider to ensure you have the latest browser version. Also, consider the use of a personal firewall to minimize unauthorized access from the Internet.
If you have a security concern about your on-line accounts, contact your credit union to discuss your concerns.