Scams don't scare off online bank users

Despite the prevalence of phishing scams and other IT security related issues the number of online banking users in Australia continues to grow and now totals eight million.

Internet banking is firmly entrenched in Australian culture, with devotees of online banking conducting a total of 151 million transfers during the December 2003 quarter.

However, the rate of new users to online banking has slowed remarkably in the last 12 months with only 2.8 per cent growth in the December quarter, according to statistics released by the Market Intelligence Strategy Centre.

But Aussie online bank users are a resilient bunch - during the recent (and not so recent) spate of online scams targeting banks, users dug their heels in and kept on conducting transactions on line, especially in rural areas.

One bank that saw sustained growth in online transactions during that period was Bendigo Bank.

Geared towards the rural user, the Bendigo Bank site is a typical example of a plain vanilla, easy-to-use site fitted directly to the needs of users.

Owen Davies, spokesperson from Bendigo Bank said the site was designed only for functionality and to make transactions as rapid as possible. It has bred confidence for users, he said, which is why growth has not slowed this year.

"We get many more enquires from non-customers who got a hoax e-mail from Bendigo bank, even if there has been no evidence of a phishing-style attack," Davies said.

"What happened after the first phishing attack in February was that the number of log-ons increased steeply, which we interpreted as people logging on to check account details.

"A series of attacks in May, June and July saw no change to the trend line - we've had an education campaign online since the first phishing attack, issuing a series of warnings and updating them constantly.

In the June 2003 period compared to June 2004, registered users to the e-bank service increased by 38.4 percent and has been in steady growth for the past three years. Active users (those that registered and used the banking service regularly) increased by 34.8 percent and the number of actual transactions increased by a whopping 89.5 percent.

Peter Bottomley, managing director of Internet banking for the National Australia Bank said online banking customers generally don't fall prey to the scams and incidents that have been occurring over the past 18 months.

"People might not be fully geared up when it comes to clicking on pop-up ads and the like, but when it comes to money Australians are very switched on."

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