Of course, if you're older than a gnat, you know that nothing is ever 100% safe. There's just no way you can achieve that. However, it is possible to manage the inherent risk in online banking.
You won't be surprised to know that most financial institutions invest a great deal to make their websites secure. That's why hackers and scammers usually don't attack the bank's website. They go to the less secure customer who uses the website.
Cybercriminals try every way possible to gain access to the customer's bank account by using malware or by tricking the customer into providing confidential information in a phishing scheme. In 2009, in the UK, more than 59 million pounds were defrauded through online banking scams, and that was a 14% increase over the previous year.
Here in the U.S., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) reported scams resulted in $150 million loss for bank customers, small to midsize businesses, and that happened in the fall of 2009. Just the fall!
Don't Get Phished
A typical phishing scheme is to send an email that says your bank needs some of your account information updated. If you click on the enclosed link, you arrive at what looks like an official page, but it's really a website put up by the crooks. Any information you enter, i.e., login name, password, PIN, etc. will then be used to empty your account and then used for identity theft crimes like obtaining credit cards.
Then there are the Trojans that install keylogging software on your computer just because you opened a bad email or visited a rogue website from clicking a link that was in the bad email.
Everything you keyboard gets logged by the bad guys, and that means your bank info, credit card numbers if you go online to make a purchase, logins and passwords for everyplace you visit and so on.
1. When accessing your bank account online, purchasing anything online, or entering private information, always make sure "https" precedes the URL in the address bar. A lock icon should also be shown.
2. Always remember that banks, credit card companies, and the Social Security administration will never email you to confirm or update information. If you get such an email and you think that it's really legit, call them or go in person to verify. Do NOT click any kind of email link.
3. Regularly scan your computer with a good security software that you keep updated with the latest virus definitions.
4. Keep your software and browsers updated when notified of patches available.
5. As I wrote in 3 EZ Security Steps, do not use the same password for all your accounts.
You can't achieve absolute safety, but you can minimize your risk by taking these steps.