Volume 2 Number 42
October 17, 2005

Consumer Services HelpLine Number 800-342-2762




As use of the Internet continues to expand, financial institutions are offering online services to consumers. The Internet offers the potential for safe, convenient new ways to shop for financial services and conduct banking business, any day, any time. However, safe banking online involves making good choices—decisions that will help you avoid costly surprises or even scams.

Here are some recommendations for using online banking systems:

  • Confirm that an online financial institution is legitimate and that deposits are federally insured.

  • Be sure to read key information about the financial institution posted on its website such as a brief history of the institution, the official name and address of the institution’s headquarters, and information about its insurance coverage from the FDIC, NCUA, or another insurer.

  • Protect yourself from fraudulent websites that deliberately use a name or web address very similar to a real financial institution. The intent is to lure you onto their website and obtain your personal account number and password information. Always check to see that you have typed the correct website address for your financial institution before conducting a transaction. 

  • Verify an institution’s insurance status by looking for the familiar FDIC logo, NCUA/NCUSIF logo, or the words “Member FDIC,” “FDIC Insured,” “NCUSIF insured” on the website. To check the FDIC’s online database of FDIC-insured institutions, go to www.fdic.gov and select “Is My Bank Insured?” If your bank does not appear on this list, contact the FDIC. In the case of a credit union, go to www.ncua.gov and select “Credit Union Data.” Not all financial institutions operating on the Internet are insured by the FDIC or NCUA. Many institutions that are not FDIC or NCUA-insured are chartered overseas. It is important for you to know that your deposits may not be federally insured if you choose to use an institution chartered overseas.

  • For insurance purposes, be aware that a financial institution may use different names for its online and traditional services; this does not mean you are dealing with separate institutions. To determine your maximum deposit insurance coverage, your deposits at the parent institution will be added together with those at the separately named financial institution website and will be insured for up to the maximum amount covered for one institution. For additional assistance from the FDIC, call the FDIC’s Division of Compliance and Consumer Affairs toll-free at 1-800-934-3342, or in the case of a credit union, contact the NCUA at (678) 443-3000.

    Protect Your Privacy

  • Financial institutions are required to give you a copy of their privacy policy once you become their customer, regardless of whether you are conducting business online or offline. You may see a copy of it posted at the institution’s website. By reviewing this policy you can learn what information the institution keeps about you, and what information, if any, it shares with other companies.

  • Although financial institutions may want to share information about you to help market products specific to your needs and interests, if you do not wish to participate in information sharing you have the right to prevent your institution from sharing your private personal information with parties not affiliated with the institution, except in certain limited circumstance. Your financial institution should provide a clear method for you to “opt out” of this type of information sharing.

  • Since some companies track your web browsing habits while at their site, you may want to ask whether your institution tracks your browsing habits if these practices concern you. Your web browser may enable you to block the ability of outside companies to track your browsing habits.

    Help Keep Your Transactions Secure

  • Because the Internet is a public network, it is important to safeguard your banking information, credit card numbers, Social Security Number, and other personal data. Look at your institution’s website for information about its security practices, or contact your institution directly.

  • Take advantage of security features such as encryption, which is the process of scrambling private information to prevent unauthorized access. To show that your transmission is encrypted, some browsers display a small icon on your screen that looks like a “lock” or a “key” whenever you conduct secure transactions online. Avoid sending sensitive information, such as account numbers, through unsecured email.

  • Passwords or personal identification numbers (PINs) should be used when accessing an account online. Your password should be unique to you and you should change it regularly. Do not use birth dates or other numbers or words that may be easy for others to guess. Keep your password secure.

  • General security over your personal computer such as virus protection and physical access controls should be used and updated regularly. Contact your hardware and software suppliers or Internet service provider to ensure you have the latest in security updates.

  • If you have a security concern about your online accounts, contact your financial institution to discuss possible problems and remedies.

Non-financial websites that are linked to your institution’s site are not FDIC or NCUA-insured. Links to merchants, retail stores, travel agents, and other non-financial sites are not insured by the federal government; therefore, your institution may not guarantee the products and services. Before you order a product or service online, 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. 

If you have any questions or concerns, contact your financial institution or the Florida Department of Financial Services’ helpline at 1-800-342-2762.