Online banking may offer a great deal of ease and convenience, especially for owners of small and home-based businesses, but it exposes the account holder to a sea of unscrupulous fraudsters and hackers. In one fell swoop, a business’ entire financial health can be compromised and a business owner’s personal assets can be decimated.

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Many small business owners may not be aware that according to federal law losses in private consumer accounts due to fraud are typically covered by the banks that hold them. The Federal Electronic Funds Transfer Act (EFTA) requires banks to reimburse consumer fraud victims within 10 days of a reported incident of fraud. Commercial accounts on the other hand receive virtually no protection from fraud or theft.

If your small business relies on online banking, then pay attention to the following tips to help keep your assets and your business safe:

1. Know your bank’s policies. Make sure that you are clear about what your bank is doing to protect your account and what it will do if your account is compromised by hackers. You should also know how your bank wants you to report any unauthorized charges or suspicious activity.

2. Choose a bank that has a solid fraud monitoring system and policy. One way to reduce your chances of becoming a victim of fraud is to do business with a bank that takes a proactive approach to online banking fraud. It should have a reliable monitoring system in place to detect suspicious account activity and should have a history of responding quickly to suspicious behavior.

3. Keep your anti-malware software and firewall protection current. Make sure that your system and browser software is up-to-date, and that you have installed reliable anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall protection.

4. Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity. The sooner you catch and respond to any irregularities and missing funds in your account the greater your chances of recouping the lost money. If your bank offers transaction alerts, then make sure to sign up for this service.

5. Don’t easily give out sensitive information. Be on alert and act with caution if either your bank or credit card company asks you to verify your account information. Keep in mind that they already have this information on record.

6. Be mindful of your paper trail. Printed banking and credit card information should be disposed of properly (i.e. shredded or rendered unreadable). To be safe, where possible you can opt to receive electronic statements instead of paper ones.

7. Conduct transactions from secure computers. Use your own computer and where possible avoid conducting sensitive transactions on the go over a wireless Internet connection. You could also have one computer that is specifically dedicated to online banking transactions and purchases to reduce the chances of picking up a virus.

8. Pay attention to the what you open on your computer. Only open emails from people you know and trust, be careful with emailed links, and pay special attention to email attachments. Make sure to scan attachments even from people you know before opening them. Make it a practice of avoiding and even blocking pop-ups.

9. Pay attention to the look and feel of your bank’s online system. If the logo suddenly seems out of place or the bank seems to be asking you for seemingly irrelevant information then it could be a red light signaling that something is off.

10. Personalize your security controls. Some banks allow their account holders to customize their online transactions (i.e. disabling some of them, while enabling others, or placing certain restrictions or requirements) so that actions, like international wire transfers, for example can only be done in person.


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