Ask A Librarian: Tips for Avoiding Online Banking?

banknotes at eh Ottoman Bank Museum
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Context: I wrote a column for Computers in Libraries magazine about practical technology tips. Here is an email from a reader.

Your December 2017 column, “Money Matters” doesn’t seem to contain any information that would advise or reassure a person who, like me, avoids online banking because she is, frankly, somewhat paranoid about identity theft. As you yourself point out, I’m not the only one who worries about that. Would you consider writing a column that specifically addressed those concerns?
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That is not a column I am likely to be writing. Not because I’m not interested in the topic, but because ultimately my column is a tech column and the solutions to not using online banking often involve offline stuff. Which is good! But at the same time, as much as I respect your own personal choice to not use online banking, I feel that it’s not the weak point in the complex system of electronic transactions that permeate our life nowadays. I feel like those are more like

  • debit cards which get stolen with alarming regularity and are used, sold, and traded
  • non chip-and-pin credit cards though most banks have done away with those
  • social engineering to obtain access to bank accounts through phone banking.

While it’s totally true that not having online banking can limit some of the access points, I sometimes feel that having and securely locking down ones online banking (using something like two-factor authentication, a good long password, and not logging in from anywhere other than a home computer) is actually safer than not having it and risking someone else potentially activating it.

All of this is not to try to sway you from your position which is yours and, as I said, I respect everyone’s agency to make the personal choices that work for them. At the same time, a lot of what I do is to slowly nudge people to make better and more secure choices that allow them to use technology, even as I acknowledge that they may choose, ultimately, not to.

Ask a Librarian: How does Drop-in Time actually work?

image from twitter at the link given


Excerpt from an email from a librarian in the Midwest: One of the goals for the new [library] strategic plan is that “Patrons will find support and expertise in technology instruction.” I’ve never taught classes before but I do like to mess around with technology.

I don’t know if it is my perception or not, but your drop-ins seem like a great community building atmosphere where disparate characters can come together and learn about tech and get help. I’d love to know how you have designed/fostered their growth.

I do drop-in time work within the context of a technical high school not the public library, just as an FYI. I started there ten years ago after my last library job had ended (it was grant funded) and I was like “I am taking some time off and will not take a job unless I open the paper and there is a ‘teach email to old people’ job listed…” and well, there was! The vocational school was hiring a VISTA volunteer to help with community tech work. Basically it’s a regional school so all the “sending towns” send kids and money to the school but don’t get as much back as the town that houses the school. So we thought about how to fix that.

2017 reading list and commentary

books on a shelf, from the humor section. Prominent title is KRAZY

I started 106 books this year and finished 102. I seem to have some sort of aggressive attachment to reading serendipitously. Which means no matter what I set out to do, I read whatever the hell I want because I read for fun and can’t really queue up books I want to read. This means it’s hard for me to choose to read more diversely, or read more titles by women. I got some good suggestions from people last year and then watched myself basically ignore them this year. I need to work my actual reading habits in to my aspirational reading life. That said, here’s how the year shook out. It was a good year for reading, but that was also sort of because it wasn’t a great year for me. We muddle forward…