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Online Financial Sites Ask Questions to Protect Privacy

Center for Personal Finance editors

It might take a little longer to log in to your credit union's online banking Web site these days. Before getting frustrated, realize that it's for your safety. The change you're seeing is due to enhanced measures to secure Internet financial transactions.

Starting Jan. 1, 2007, financial institutions must have in place a process called multifactor authentication. This means that, instead of just being able to log in to an online banking site with username and password, you might be required to answer a question or two as well.

The first time you log on to a site using multifactor authentication, you'll be asked to answer questions such as What is your favorite food? What street did you grow up on? What is your favorite teacher's name? Then, the next time you log in to the site you might be required to answer one of those questions.

You also might be asked to enter a security code that you see onscreen or confirm a verification text image. This prevents automated logins by ensuring that a person is at the keyboard.

Web sites will vary as to how often you'll have to answer questions or what methods they use to verify that you're trying to log in.

One of the most popular methods of fraud occurs through impersonating individuals during the login process. All these extra steps confirm that it's really you accessing your accounts--not some impostor who knows just enough about you to be dangerous.

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