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October 2013

     Banking Online
     Computer Myths

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Banking Online

Doing your banking online, notably - paying your bills online, is becoming increasingly attractive for several reasons. However many are either reluctant to take this step or feel uneasy having gone this route. Like most modern marvels, it’s a two-edged sword. The benefits outweigh the risks only when the appropriate safeguards are taken. Many companies have been quick to offer online bill payment and most banks offer online banking. Look for a note on your bill that reads like “pay your bill online at: www.tiddlywinks-heaven.com”.

Here is a small list of some of the benefits to the consumer:
  • fast payment – really good if there’s a penalty for late payment
  • no stamp required - (ex. 15 bills/month = $82.80/year)
  • no need to acquire & assemble envelope, stamp, return address, etc.
  • no check required – (saves check printing cost)
  • no check to get lost in (or never make it to) the mail
  • takes less time than writing and mailing a check
  • environmentally friendly (saves trees, gasoline, ink)
  • less chance of error re amount & whether it was received
Companies like it because:
  • their clients like it
  • saves money printing  & sending bills
  • saves hassle/salary for people processing payments by hand
Here are some of the things to be careful of:
  • don’t use a publicly accessible computer (like at a library)
  • don’t use a public wireless network (like at a coffee shop)
  • make sure that your antivirus software & firewall are installed and operating
  • don’t use a wireless network without encryption
  • use good passwords for your online access accounts
  • don’t have the computer remember these passwords (type them each time)
  • don’t write down your passwords and then store them near the computer
  • make sure that the web site URL starts with “https”.
  • don’t click on links (like in spam email) to get to a payment web page

Computer Myths

PCs get slower over time – to the point where you’ll eventually need to buy a new one.

FALSE. The basic hardware (i.e. CPU, RAM, hard drive) will continue to run at the same speed as when it was bought; however, the operating system and applications may run slower due to the following: (1) more applications running in the background, (2) more advanced or later release versions of software consuming more computing power, (3) operating system clutter that accrues over time [use a registry cleaner and defrag], (4) it may seem to run slower in comparison to newer, faster computers, (5) it may be infected with a virus. A reinstall of the operating system will usually get the computer back up to speed; but, you’ll need to weigh that against the benefit of an entirely new computer.
Having lots of files on your computer (especially on the desktop) will slow it down.

FALSE.  However, if you have so many files that your hard drive is running out of room, then that will tend to slow your computer down. This is because every time that your computer needs to find room for a new file, it needs to scrounge for space – sort of like spending time figuring out how to store more food in an overcrowded fridge. Having too many files on the desktop won’t slow the computer down; it will slow you down.
Having lots of software programs installed on your computer will slow it down.

FALSE.  However, having many programs running, even if only running in the background, will tend to slow the computer down.
Defragmenting of hard drives is no longer necessary.

FALSE, mostly.  Although Microsoft claims that your computer will automatically defrag in the wee hours of the morning; most times it doesn’t happen in practice. Defragmenting still prolongs hard drive life and will still speed up your computer in most cases. Note that Macs don’t require defragmenting and SSD drives should not be defragmented at all.
A virus can wipe out your data.

TRUE, but this hardly ever happens. Although a virus could easily mess up your data; in practice, most viruses will leave your data alone. The purpose of a virus is to spread widely and remain undetected. Ruining your computer would defeats that purpose.  The more serious risk from a virus is that it will try to extort money or scam money from you or attempt to steal your identity.
Software can be transferred from PC to PC.

FALSE, mostly.  Most software needs to be installed from a CD, DVD, or installation download so that it can be properly integrated with the operating system. Most times the registry needs to be altered, prerequisites need to be checked, additional software may need to be installed, etc. Furthermore, there’s the issue of licensing. Many times, the software is licensed to be run on a single computer and is not legally transferable.
A USB flash memory stick is a good way to back up your data.

FALSE. Memory sticks fail too. Secondly, it’s usually more difficult to retrieve data from them if they do fail. They are also relatively slow (USB 3.0 being the exception) making them ill-suited to copying significant amounts of data. Don’t forget the fact that they’re easy to lose, the data is unencrypted, and they’re also susceptible to breakage from dropping them, dunking them, bending them, stepping on them, etc.
A good antivirus program will protect you from yourself.

FALSE. The very best antivirus program will probably still not be able to keep you from shooting yourself in the foot. Take care when browsing the web, opening emails, and downloading “free” software. Things that seem too good to be true are usually a scam. If your computer seems infected, recognize the problem and deal with it. If you ignore it, things will only get worse with time.
You can speed up a slow computer (or fix a broken one) by removing some unimportant-looking (or troublesome-looking) Windows files.

FALSE. Unless you work for Microsoft writing operating system code, don’t try this one at home. I don’t understand why some people think that they can “just get rid of some files that don’t seem important”. They then find that they’ve made a nuisance problem into a major one.  If you were sick, would you do surgery on yourself and remove some organs that didn’t seem to be doing anything particularly useful?
Since you can buy a computer today for $225, any computer that costs more is just a waste of money.

FALSE. Like most things, especially in technology, you get what you pay for.  Not all computers are created equal. If you don’t believe me, read the reviews. My father once ordered a hamburger at an unfamiliar restaurant. He said: “What can they do to mess up a hamburger?” After one bite, he declared it to be the worst hamburger he’d tasted in his life. A computer is a computer, right? Wrong. That said, it still bears to mention that you shouldn’t pay extra for frills that you don’t need.
Kids today are incredibly tech-savvy.”

FALSE. I have nothing against kids, but this one is so often repeated (and by such fuddy-duddies) that it makes me sick. They did a study some time ago in seeing how well children vs. adults were able to find a particular piece of information by using the web. Adults almost always found the information faster. Just because kids can beat you at video games or prefer to text when you prefer to talk doesn’t make them more “tech-savvy”. Being able to drive a car (and not being afraid of it) doesn’t make you a mechanic or an expert on different car models. There’s no magic to being savvy. Research, read, experiment, and learn.

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