Is it Safe? Don't let safety fears keep you tethered to your checkbook. Not only is online bill paying safe, it could even protect your financial privacy
By Donna Rosato

(MONEY Magazine) – If security worries are chasing you offline, relax. For starters, bill-paying sites use encryption technology to scramble your data during transmission. You can check the site's security policy to be sure or just look for the icon of a lock or key on your screen when you're at the site.

When it comes to identity theft, banking online might even reduce your risk. More often than not, thieves pick up personal financial information from bills and credit-card statements thrown in the garbage or left in a mailbox, not from the Internet. So the more paper you eliminate, the less there is to hijack. And since consumers who bank online check their accounts more frequently, you'll be quicker to spot unusual activity.

If someone tampers with your account, most banks will cover 100% of any losses. (Federal law limits your liability to $50 if you report fraudulent activity within two days of discovering it.) Before you sign up, make sure you can reach customer service 24 hours a day.

If you're worried that banking online will mean more spam, read the site's privacy statement. Banks are required to give you a copy of their privacy policy and a clear method for you to opt out of any information sharing that they practice. --D.R.