Seniors Using Internet Banking More Often

One of the fastest-growing users of online banking is the senior demographic. Why the increase? According to seniors, it's largely due to convenience.

A 2006 Harris Poll discovered that about 14 million seniors are now actively online. Whether they're using the Internet to e-mail friends and family, or engage in additional social interactions online, the numbers continue to climb.

An increasingly popular online tool for seniors is online banking. Many are finding that paying bills and managing funds via the computer is more convenient for this older demographic, especially for those with limited mobility.

Online banking enables seniors to review their accounts, transfer money, pay bills, and generally stay on top of their finances without having to leave the house. This is a big advantage to individuals who worry about traveling to and from bank branches. Combined with direct deposit from social security and pension checks, online banking is ideal for computer-savvy seniors.

While online banking can be advantageous, seniors should be aware of some of the safety precautions that should be instituted when transferring information via the Internet.

* Make sure you use a security-enhanced banking site that works hard to prevent hackers from accessing your information. If a site is secured, it will generally show a "lock" icon at the bottom of the Web page.

* Reputable financial institutions will not ask you to provide personal information, such as social security numbers via e-mail. If you receive an unsolicited e-mail from a bank, call up your branch to ensure it's valid before responding. This is called "phishing." Phishing scams frequently target seniors with "bank notices" or official looking "government documents."

* Many home computer setups feature a wireless router. If you don't have a passcode on your router, other people in the vicinity can tap into your signal and use it free. They also may be able to hack into your computer and see your private information. As a precaution, always lock your router.

* Do not store account numbers, login information or passwords next to the computer. This makes it easier for your information to be accessed should someone break into your home.

* Opt for e-mailed statements and banking record-keeping. This eliminates paper statements that can be stolen from the mailbox.

* Use caution when using a debit card or credit card online to make purchases. Only buy from reputable retailers. Ensure that your card company does not hold you responsible for fraudulent purchases.

* Only use trusted sources to troubleshoot computer problems. While many computer techs are honest and reliable, there are others who aren't. If a tech asks for "remote access" to your computer, he or she can then access any information on your machine, so "remote access" might be a bad idea.

* Be wary of people you meet on social networking sites or anyone communicating online. It's better to be safe than sorry. Scam artists make their living by building trust. Seniors tend to be more trusting than younger adults, especially seniors who may have lost a spouse and are looking for companionship.