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Tips for paying your bills safely online

Jun 15, 2012, 6 a.m.

Paying bills online is one of those former luxuries that has become a necessity in today's world. Not only is paying bills online convenient for you, but it's also incredibly convenient for your banks and creditors, as well.

When you make online payments, you ensure that your checks never get lost in the mail. You can also save money on postage, especially if you have a lot of bills to pay. In most cases, by paying online you can set up scheduled payments ahead of time or simply make them when it's convenient for you. From your bank's perspective, it's cheaper and faster for them to process online payments.

However, like almost all technological advancements, there are security risks to paying your bills online that you should consider. Remember, hackers and ne'er do wells are always on the lookout for ways to gain access to your money. This doesn't mean that the security risks outweigh the convenience of making online payments -- it just means that you have to be careful. If you're new to online payments, here are some tips to show you how to pay bills online safely and securely.

  1. All banks and creditors require you to have a password or PIN number to access your account information and to make payments. Make sure those passwords will be impossible for someone to guess. When creating a password, always include numbers, uppercase and lowercase letters, and symbols when possible. Change your passwords often, at least once each month.
  2. Be wary of emails. Often, hackers will send you phony emails that appear to be from your bank. If you click on a link contained in the email, you could unknowingly infect your computer with a virus that records your online actions and keystrokes. This is a common way for hackers to steal your passwords. Remember that your bank will never ask you to give them your personal information in an email.
  3. Never use public computers to sign into secure websites and banks. If your only access to a computer is through the public library, forget about paying your bills online until you are able to access a private, secure connection.
  4. Check your accounts regularly so that you can identify fraudulent activity. If a hacker does happen to access your bank or credit card account, it's better to find out sooner than later. If this happens, report any unauthorized activity immediately, change your passwords, and run a virus scan on your computer.

Knowing how to pay bills online is something that just about everyone can benefit from. While there are security issues to consider, as long as you take the proper safety measures, paying bills online can save you time and money, and actually be more secure than sending a check in the mail.

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