Q&A: The risks of online banking

May 22, 2009

Is it safe to have my office staff pay my practice's bills online?

Q: Is it safe to have my office staff pay my practice's bills online? I am concerned that the staff could pay all kinds of bills-theirs and others'-out of the office account, since I would never see a check to sign.

A: You're right to be concerned. With online banking, the safety controls are often not very strong, and there may be too much risk involved if you give bank account access to an employee. Many people don't realize it, but online bill paying can actually be riskier than giving someone wire-transfer access or check-signing authority, because unlike wires and checks, banks do not monitor the activity that takes place through online bill payments. It would be up to you to review your statement each month to determine which items, if any, should be returned. If the transaction was done via an automated clearinghouse, you may have a shot at getting the funds back. Nonetheless, online bill payment for your practice remains dangerous.