Ask A Librarian: Tips for Avoiding Online Banking?

banknotes at eh Ottoman Bank Museum
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Context: I wrote a column for Computers in Libraries magazine about practical technology tips. Here is an email from a reader.

Your December 2017 column, “Money Matters” doesn’t seem to contain any information that would advise or reassure a person who, like me, avoids online banking because she is, frankly, somewhat paranoid about identity theft. As you yourself point out, I’m not the only one who worries about that. Would you consider writing a column that specifically addressed those concerns?
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That is not a column I am likely to be writing. Not because I’m not interested in the topic, but because ultimately my column is a tech column and the solutions to not using online banking often involve offline stuff. Which is good! But at the same time, as much as I respect your own personal choice to not use online banking, I feel that it’s not the weak point in the complex system of electronic transactions that permeate our life nowadays. I feel like those are more like

  • debit cards which get stolen with alarming regularity and are used, sold, and traded
  • non chip-and-pin credit cards though most banks have done away with those
  • social engineering to obtain access to bank accounts through phone banking.

While it’s totally true that not having online banking can limit some of the access points, I sometimes feel that having and securely locking down ones online banking (using something like two-factor authentication, a good long password, and not logging in from anywhere other than a home computer) is actually safer than not having it and risking someone else potentially activating it.

All of this is not to try to sway you from your position which is yours and, as I said, I respect everyone’s agency to make the personal choices that work for them. At the same time, a lot of what I do is to slowly nudge people to make better and more secure choices that allow them to use technology, even as I acknowledge that they may choose, ultimately, not to.

3 thoughts on “Ask A Librarian: Tips for Avoiding Online Banking?

  1. I used to work in retail banking, back when online banking was a newish thing. I always explained that, as you suggest, online banking is not the weak point for all but the most security-minded people. I could pretty easily hammer it home by asking “What happens to your credit card after you give it to the server at a restaurant?”

  2. That is what I say! Literally the only time I have gotten a credit card stolen it was because I gave it to a server at Disneyland.

  3. Hello I am very curious about your opinion on the role of librarians and technology education. I am a student and would like to learn more from a librarian educating the community on these very issues. How do you make connections to the patrons and the information you are providing? I appreciate your time.

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