BROOKFIELD, Wis. (9/10/08)--More than three-fourths of online households pay at least one bill electronically in an average month, according to a recent survey sponsored by CheckFree (Business Wire
Aug. 27). The 2008 Consumer Banking and Bill Payment Survey revealed that online bill payments outpaced paper checks for the second year in a row, with an estimated 63.1 million participating households, up from 61 million households in 2007. Reasons cited for using electronic bill pay include:
* Going green. More than half (51%) of respondents cited the environment and paper reduction as the No. 1 reason for paying bills electronically. * Saving time. * Gaining control over finances. * Eliminating hassle of check-writing. * Saving on stamps.
The average Internet-using household pays about 11 bills a month. As comfort level and usage increases, so does confidence in security. The survey found that for households not using electronic bill-pay, concern about security is the key barrier. To stay safe online, the Credit Union National Association Center for Personal Finance, Madison, Wis., recommends these tips:
* Monitor accounts daily. The sooner you discover errors or fraudulent activity, the better. Online banking lets you check your accounts 24/7. * Change passwords frequently. Avoid easily detectable words and phrases such as birthdates, house address, mother’s maiden name, children or pet names, or consecutive numbers. Instead, use “strong” passwords that contain a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers, and symbols. Or, create a password with the first initials from a memorable phrase: “My #1 television station is Public Broadcasting!” becomes “M#1TVsiPBS!” * Watch for phishers. If you receive an e-mail requesting personal or account information, hit delete. * Look for “https.” Any pages on which you will conduct any financial or personal business should have “https” at the beginning of the address at the top of every page. In addition, you should see a closed padlock on the browser frame—not within the page. An open padlock means the site is not secure. * Protect personal information. Never share personal account information in an e-mail message, unless you’ve signed up for secured e-mail or instant messaging through the credit union. * Shore up your firewall. Go to download.com and install and keep updated a personal firewall and antivirus software.
For more information, read “Online Financial Sites Ask Questions to Protect Privacy” in Home & Family Resource Center.