Will You Get Over Your Fear of the Mouse?

Physician's Money Digest, April 2006, Volume 13, Issue 4


News & World Report

Still licking stamps? Maybe 2006 willbe the year that you join the 27 millionAmericans who pay their bills online—upfrom 10.6 million in 2001. According to , most large banksand credit unions offer the service for nofee, while services suchas CheckFree.com andPayTrust.com charge.Aside from the easeof completing moneytransactions withthe click of a mouse, payingyour bills on time isthe biggest benefit. Youcan arrange automaticand recurring payments,suchas for yourmortgage or carloan, and credit cardcompanies can alert you whenyou are dangerously close to missing yourpayment due date. You can also transfermoney between checking and savingsaccounts at any time. Convenience doescome with risk, and many people who arestill wary about the very real threat of identitytheft question the safety of conductingfinancial transactions over the Internet.Although any Web site that involves bankingtransactions takes the highest level ofprecautions to ensure security, all that anonline thief needs to gain access to yourinformation is procure a username andpassword. Federal banking laws stipulatethat consumers are responsible for up to$50 of unauthorized online transactions, ifyou report the incident within 2 businessdays. If you bank or pay bills via theInternet, check your online statementsoften, paying particular attention to anysuspicious transactions. More importantly,every time you pay a bill or conduct a financialtransaction via the Web make sure thatthe URL reads "https"instead of "http."Another safeguard is to look for the tinypadlock that appears at the bottom of yourscreen; this icon ensures the identity of theparticular Web site as well as its safety.