5 Reasons Not To Pay Bills Online: Problems, Risks And Security

Use caution when paying bills online to avoid problems like a lack of security, limited paper trail, no signature, potential system failure, and tracking difficulty.

Paying your bills online may sound like a wonderful way to reduce the check-writing and paper files that can result from doing it the old fashioned way. But problems can develop from the Internet method. Here are some things to watch for:

1. Beware of a possible security breach. Identity and credit theft are burgeoning problems that plague Internet users who pay by credit card or bank account numbers. Some will block from display all but the last four digits of the account number used in a transaction. Then, if you keep that account in the vendor's system, it will automatically pop up the next time you do business with the company. Always ask how secure the connection is, and never use confidential account codes if you have the least suspicion about a vendor's integrity.

2. Don't get caught without adequate documentation. Print a paper trail. Because Internet business is conducted on a computer monitor screen, the only receipts that will result are those that you print following each transaction. Be sure to get copies of those that have the most important information, such as the amount paid, the product or service description, any discount, and delivery terms, etc. Check the printed copy to ensure that it is readable. Add the current date if it does not show up on your print copy.

3. You may misplace random records. Keep a file for each company or procedure. Even though automated business transactions saves time, space, and paper, you should keep a file for copies of related documents that you will print to document a particular transaction. Set up a file system by company or vendor name or for Internet business, if you do just a small amount online. Otherwise, treat your clients or associates as you would those with whom you deal in traditional ways by maintaining an up-to-date file of each step of the process through which you have negotiated a process.

4. You aren't able to sign documents. Consider getting set up for a personalized signature. Check with the companies that you deal with on a routine basis to find out if this service is available. Basically, you will be able to add a signature imprint to formalize a document just as you would for a "live" deal. Not all organizations have this set-up or want to use it, but check in advance, since your signature is one of the few indisputable indicators of a business agreement.

5. If the system fails, you may lose all data. Prepare for this contingency by backing up your files on disk and by printing hard copies. Install an antivirus program and update it regularly. You don't want to have a bug wipe out all your hard work in a few minutes or so, leaving you without proof or documentation of any Internet transactions.

Since it appears that more and more global business will be conducted online, it's probably a good idea to prepare for the above problems in the event you begin doing some of your business over the Internet. Don't take a chance on losing valuable documents.

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