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Section Overview Questions to Consider What is Online Banking? Tips for Shopping Online Starting an Online Business Common Online Scams What to Do if Things Go Wrong Examples in the Library

Online Finances & Business Overview

This section is about online shopping, online banking and the potential security risks associated with both. Keep in mind that avoiding digital transactions may not always be an option in all cases. Retail stores are beginning to offer more items as “online only” specials and selection may be sparse for certain items.

The popularity of online shopping and banking is on the rise, so libraries can connect people with resources to handle online finances safely and securely. This section will provide you with an overview of what exists, and where to find more information.

Questions to Consider

While reading this guide, consider these questions. Start brainstorming what your community most needs to know about banking safely and effectively online. Think about how you can best connect library customers with the resources to shop smart, and possibly even start a business of their own!

  1. Do you know which banking services are available online?
  2. How do you keep your banking information safe online?
  3. Which websites and apps are safe to buy online? How do you know?
  4. What is the best way to pay online?
  5. Can you price compare online?
  6. What kind of scams should you be aware of online?
  7. How do you sell things online?
  8. What do I do if things go wrong?

What is Online Banking?

The number of banking services available online is growing. Users can now open accounts, check balances, transfer funds, apply for loans, monitor spending, deposit checks, view account history, and more. More complex transactions, trust issues and lack of technology access will still cause customers to go into a physical bank. However, the number of online banking service users is steadily growing.

To stay safe online, follow the security measures from the Online Privacy & Security section, especially the password and account safety section. Be sure to keep your antivirus software up to date!


What is Online Banking: The Balance describes what online banking is, pros and cons to using online services, and how to open an online account.

How to Keep Your Information Safe When Online Banking: US News provides tips for proper security and best practices in online banking.

Best Security Tips for Mobile Banking: The Balance offers a list of tips to stay safe while banking on the go. This list could easily be adapted into an infographic.

Tips for Shopping Online

Unfortunately, there are bank robbers in the world. At one time they attacked physical bank locations, now thieves have gone digital. There are stolen credit card numbers, non-delivery of purchased goods, phishing attempts, and more. Keep in mind that things are stolen just as often in the real world.


14 Tips for Safe Online Shopping: PC Magazine provides tips to stay safe while shopping online.

Online Shopping Tips: Privacy Rights Clearinghouse provides a guide to finding secure websites, reading privacy policies, safe ways to pay, and more.

How to Safely Pay for Goods and Services with Someone You Don't Know: Consumer Reports list of tips will help you navigate the changing world of online payment systems.

15 Tips for Safe Holiday Online Shopping: LifeLock partnered with Norton, a security company, to provide this list of tips for finding secure websites. These tips are true year-round.

Starting an Online Business

Connect the entrepreneurs in your community with the tools and resources to build their own online business. Steer people towards the “Learning Online” section of this guide to find a ton of resources with business and marketing courses. Many include free learning opportunities.

Feel free to consult these additional resources for building an online business.


How to Start a Craft Business: This article from the U.S. Small Business Administration outlines a path towards starting a setting up a craft business. They have addiction links in the “Business Guide” section.

Grow with Google for Local Businesses: “Learn how to grow your business using digital marketing tools and resources”.

How and Where to Learn Online: This guide offers additional places to learn new business skills, both formally and informally.

7 Steps to Starting a Small Business Online: Entrepreneur magazine contirbutor describes a possible route to success. It's up to you how you meet the needs of your community.

How to Make a Small Business Website Step by Step: WordPress is a popular tool for small businesses and ecommerce sites.

Common Online Scams

As we shop online, it helps to know what to look out for online. Here are some of the most common online shopping scams:

  • Phishing: emails that lead consumers to fake websites to steal sensitive information. Avoid phishing by not clicking a direct link through an email. Directly log into the website to make sure the message is legitimate.
  • Fake Companies: Not all websites are legitimate. Look for an “about us” page and legitimate contact information on the website. Also, verify secure payment methods and URL spelling.
  • Unsecure Websites: Look for a padlock symbol in the address bar of the website, and an “https” in the URL. “s” stands for secure.
  • Check Reviews: When buying goods from a new website, check for reviews outside of that site. Not everyone is in the Better Business Bureau, but it’s a good place to check for complaints against the company. When in doubt, go to the domain registry and do a WHOIS search to find out who the website is registered to, and if it matches the “about us” page and company name.

Consult the Online Privacy and Security section of this guide to learn more about how to protect yourself against online scams.

What to Do if It All Goes Wrong

As with all things in life, somethings things just go wrong. Credit card numbers are stolen. Companies have data breaches and your sensitive information is accidentally made public. Your information falls in the wrong hands. There resources will help get you and your patrons get back on track.


Identity Theft Recovery Steps: The Federal Trade Commission has a tool to build a recovery action plan for people whose personal information has been stolen. This may be a credit card number, or social security number. Free information booklets can be ordered and made available in the library.

(Video) Data Breaches: Know Your Rights: This video from the Privacy Clearinghouse demonstrates how to take action after receiving a notice of data breach in the mail.

What to Do When You Receive a Data Breach Notice: Learn more from the Privacy Clearinghouse about what a data breach is and how to keep yourself safe.

Examples in the Library

To get the ball rolling, here is a quick sampling of ways these resources and skills can be added or incorporated into existing programs in the library:

  • Parents Group: Parents like to know what works for local parents and discuss how to keep their kids safe. Gather parents together and ask for their preferred topics.
    • Ask parents to consider how they manage money. What has changed over time? How do their kids learn?
    • Host a makerspace workshop and challenge parents to come up with a design and learn how to market it online. Why is it important for kids to learn this skill?
    • Ask parents to list everything they know about online banking and compare it against the information in this Guidebook. What's missing in their knowledge? How do their kids learn?
    • Describe data breaches and how things can go wrong. How do parents keep their kids accounts safe and protect their future credit score?
  • Older Adults
    • Host workshops to help older adults set up online bank accounts. Make sure library staff don't know their passwords either!
    • When adults come in for related services, ask if they would like more info about online banking. Provide handouts.
    • Keep handouts and posters related to online finance and business handy at the reference desk.
    • Open up a discussion about how things have changed and what older adults can do to adapt while maintaining values.
  • Children
    • Play Online Finance games using resources compiled by the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions. Personal Finance Football is a thing now.
    • How can we go wrong with personal finance puppets?
    • Help kids understand that plastic money and paper money all come from the same source. Let them build a play house budget and choose safe places to buy items online. Possibly have them do community service projects to earn the real items.
    • Let kids choose a new online game for the library. Show them how to stay within a budget, choose safe websites, and make smart purchases online.
  • Teens
    • Ask older kids to write a guidebook for younger kids who have just gotten their identity stolen. Make sure to verify their instructions first! Then use the guide in the library.
    • Workshop with parents & teens: Show teens how things have gone terribly wrong for people of all ages. How can we do things differently to stay safe?
    • Host an online gaming night where kids have to find free and low-cost games online and choose a reputable seller. Let them know these games will be available for everyone in the library after they're done, so choose wisely!
    • Ask teens to track the number of times they are asked to buy something online, and if the items are something they really need. Do they still want the item in a week? 80% of teens impulse buy.
  • Adults
    • Host a workshop where adults get together and talk about online advertising. Where does it come from, and how can we maintain control? Include a privacy settings handout.
    • Host a book group where you reak Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products. Which products have you hooked? Is that good or bad? What can we do to take control?
    • Survey adults about what worries them, or interests them in the world of online shopping and banking. Help people feel safe and prepared to shift purchasing online.
    • Host a crafting workshop and add a section at the end helping people get comfortable with choosing and purchasing crafting materials safely online.
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