I'm the computer geek of the family -- blogging, gaming, Googling, I'm practically always online. But it was my wife, Rachelle, who had to give me a good hard shove into the world of virtual banking. She promised it would make paying bills, moving money between accounts, and checking our balances so much easier; even better, most dot-com banks offer higher interest rates than their bricks-and-mortar cousins. I, however, saw only the downside: If hackers can breach military computers, what's to keep them from tapping into our precious money?
There are a lot of skeptics out there. While e-banking is growing at about 15 percent each year, only 4 out of 10 households have entrusted their finances to the Internet. And they have reason to pause. "Online banks have gotten harder to crack, so crooks are targeting the consumers who use them because they have fewer protections in place," says James Christiansen, CEO of Evantix, an electronic risk management firm in Aliso Viejo, California, and author of Internet Survival Guide: Protecting Your Financial Information (Sheltonix). "On the other hand, it takes only a few smart steps to avoid most problems. Online security for the little guy is very good and getting better all the time."
Rachelle arm-twisted me into giving it a go. Now I'm happy to pay my bills electronically, without the stamps and hand cramps. Whether you're thinking about switching or have already made the move to Internet banking, here's how you can protect your money.