Many businesses do their non-cash banking via the Internet. It's convenient and fast, but it can expose the business to fraudulent operators that use a range of electronic trickery to loot online accessible bank accounts. There are a number of things you can do to protect your business from these con artists.
Protect your passwords
Make your password hard to guess. Don't use things like birthdays, telephone numbers or street addresses as passwords and don't use the same password for more than one account. The best passwords are meaningless. e2Kb5C1dd isn't going to be easily guessed, nor is it likely to be generated by a random password generating program used by the con men. Your password will be even safer if you change it regularly - every month is a good idea.
Restrict knowledge of details like user names and passwords to as few people as possible, and don't write them down even if you think you've disguised them by converting them to phone numbers.
Be careful using the Internet
Be sure nobody is observing you whenever you enter your user name and password to access your bank account. Don't use a computer outside the office to access your account unless it's absolutely necessary. Always key in the bank's Internet address; don't go there by clicking on a link in an e-mail - it could be taking you to a false address. Look for a padlock symbol in the bottom right hand corner of your browser. It denotes an encrypted site that ensures a secure transmission of data.
Be sure that any computer you use to do Internet banking has a firewall and anti-virus software installed. When you finish your browser session log out and close the browser, and even when using the computer in your office don't leave it unattended while you're logged on to the banking web site. It's even better to take your computer off-line when you're not using it.
Keep virus protection up to date
Viruses are bad enough when they pop up annoying advertisements or cause your PC to stop functioning. They also have the ability to hide a hidden code that can transmit your banking details to a third party or allow someone to take control of your computer.
You should update your anti-virus software each day or at least before beginning any online banking session. You also need a firewall that acts as a "gate-keeper" between your computer and the Internet. This is most important for anyone using a cable or wireless modem.
Never open e-mail attachments from unknown sources; these attachments, no matter what they might seem to be, can contain viruses. Even attachments from someone you know can be a "spoof" and have been sent without their knowledge. Caution at all times is required.
Beware of hoax e-mails
You may receive an e-mail from your bank or other financial institution requesting you to "confirm" your login information or to reveal your password in some other way. These are common hoaxes.
If you do receive one of these hoax e-mails delete it and notify the financial institution. Don't click on any links within the e-mail and never provide the sender with any information. Many of these hoax e-mails contain viruses or will take you to a site where a virus can be loaded onto your computer without your knowledge.
Before the Internet became so pervasive, NZ banks developed their own on-line banking software. Most of these system are still available today - although they have usually been modified to use the Internet rather than older systems like PACNet for communications.
These packages cost more than Internet Banking, but offer many more features. Authorisation can be done by signature on paper, much like writing a cheque. Signatories don't even have to use a computer if they so choose. As well as providing a better audit trail, this avoids the limitation of Internet banking only working on accounts where a single signatory can sign cheques.
Most payroll, and many accounting packages, feed directly into these systems, making paying and authorising wages and creditors a breeze. In businesses with larger payrolls and accounts payable systems, the extra fee can be recouped to some extent by reduced charges for bulk batches processed in this way.
The heavy duty security is the biggest plus of these systems (for example, National Bank's Directlink system was developed by Lloyds in the 1980's - and still works extremely well.)