My name is Melinda Brown and I am the Electronic Banking Wizard. I work for Century Next Bank in the department of Electronic Banking. Our department casts a large shadow of protection for services in the bank. In a nutshell, we work with debit cards, mobile deposits, online banking services including electronic or scheduled bill payments, and payroll direct deposits for our business customers. Primarily, we work on the user side- meaning if a customer has an issue with anything that involves the electronic banking world, we are their advocates and support.
Over the last few years, this side of the banking industry has grown and changed. Every year a new product or service is developed to make life easier or at least faster for the bank customer. Today’s customers have the ability to actually never walk into a branch or wait in a drive-thru line. However, this accessibility has its risks and customers need to be more savvy and cautious than ever before in banking history. Caveat Emptor is the new norm!
In 2020, for the first time in my Christmas shopping history, I did not go to a mall to Christmas shop. I can say that 80% of my shopping was completed online. What a convenience! Local and national companies alike have really stepped up to meet the market needs of the online consumer. Large crowds and public shopping were discouraged due to the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus, and I took advantage of my need to be a nerd by shopping online. I can testify that my experiences were good, and I credit that outcome to a few good practices that I use every day in online purchases and banking.
Social Media and Online Purchases
I like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Beyond the social engagement with long-time friends that I have not seen in years, I like the algorithms that suggest items that I might like to purchase. I have found some pretty nifty deals over the years. Business apps make it so easy shop online. Nevertheless, I practice these safety tips before I make a purchase through a Social Media or Online App:
1. Know your seller. Check online reviews, ask friends, and research where the company is located. The BBB will reveal any founded complaints and the Secretary of State sites will show if they are in good standing and have kept up with their renewals. Keep in mind, purchases made with entities outside the USA may take significantly longer to receive and will open your debit or credit cards to a larger audience of fraudsters.
2. Track your purchases. Merchants should be willing to offer the ability to track the purchase from the moment the sale is made to when it lands on the delivery truck headed into your neighborhood. Even if it costs a few dollars more, it is well worth it to follow the process and delivery. Reputable sellers will keep you informed--silence is red flag!
3. Limit where you store your bank information. I have a few national retailers that I trust with my banking information such as my debit card. I highly discourage giving your actual checking account number to a merchant for retail purchases. Before I allow any company to store my debit card number, I must have a solid business-to-consumer relationship with them. What does that mean? The company has kept in communication with me during the buying and delivery process, and they kept their commitment to me by delivering on time and undamaged. Also, when I call, do I get answers or the “run-around?” Good business practices should be their reputation.
4. Last, set alerts on your debit cards and banking. Currently, Century Next Bank offers an online app named Brella that will follow your guidelines to alert you via text or email anytime a debit card purchase meets the set benchmarks.
This is my personal criteria: I will receive an alert if a purchase is made online, or if any purchase is made over $100.00. I choose to be notified through a text message. For example, if I make a purchase from Amazon.com for $29.95, the Brella app takes action to me to let me know that my debit card has been used online. If it is my purchase, all is well! But if it not, I will call the toll-free number provided in text to let the bank know this is not my purchase. Protect your accounts!
I started the article with the charge, Caveat Emptor which means Buyer Beware! In making purchases online, we must develop good habits and a vision of what a seller with a solid reputation looks like. If someone is not willing to meet your needs, both in the product and the process, thank them, but keep moving along. Trustworthy people are willing to make the extra effort to put you at ease and communicate well. Remember, it’s your money; you decide how it is spent.
For questions about online purchase practices, please reach out to your local banker. CNext is willing to help! Stay tuned to the CNext blog for more articles about online safety, including “Can I get Job from a Facebook Ad?” and “Cash Apps and Third-Party Processors: Is it safe to send money online?”
Electronic Banking Wizard
Operations- Downtown Ruston