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Bill Payment Online Safety Tips

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Online bill payment is generally safe, but there are some things you can do to increase your security. Take a look at these tips that will make paying bills online even safer.

Make sure your computer is protected from prying eyes. Thieves have become tech-savvy, and use every opportunity to surreptitiously install spyware or key logging software on your computer. The software records your every keystroke and transmits it back to the bad guys. The thieves use the data to discover your passwords (and which sites to use them on). Have effective anti-virus, anti-spyware software installed, plus a firewall, and keep it up-to-date. This software will detect and isolate spyware and prevent it from being installed. There are even anti-virus packages that come with subscriptions to keep your software on the lookout for the very latest viruses that are making the rounds.

Set up good passwords, and keep them private. Most bank and credit card sites require customers to use strong passwords, containing upper- and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols or punctuation marks. Follow their guidelines and make sure your password is “strong.” It should have no connection to your personal information, making it less likely to be guessed by someone with casual information about you. Absolutely avoid names and significant dates or other numbers. Your password should also not be any word that appear in the dictionary. “Brute force” methods of hacking, or using password cracking software that tries millions of possible passwords, are able to try every word in the dictionary in a matter of seconds.

Make sure you're where you think you are. Always start your bill payment session at the main page of your institution's website. Log in, then navigate to the page to pay your bill. Don't ever click on a link in an email. This is a popular phishing strategy: sending an email asking you to click a link and log on (usually with some urgent reason you should do so). The link will take you to a site that looks legitimate, but if you enter your password you've handed it over to thieves.

You can do a lot to make your online bill payment safer. Your bank or credit card company will do its part by using the latest technology and high-level security. Just follow these tips to make sure you do your part, too, and you can be confident that you're secure!

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